Detroit — It was like watching a baseball game in a snow globe for the first couple of innings.
Not that the sub-freezing temperatures and snow flurries could dampened the spirits of the 8,000 revved up fans who were back at Comerica Park for the first time since the end of 2019 season.
Nor did it seem to bother Miguel Cabrera or Matthew Boyd a whole lot.
Cabrera lined a two-run home run to right field into the teeth of the snow in the first inning and Boyd pitched 5.2 innings of scoreless ball as the Tigers opened the 2021 season, and the AJ Hinch managerial era, with a 3-2 win over the Cleveland Indians.
The snow stopped, temperatures climbed to a balmy 34 degrees and every now and then the sun peeked through. How’s that for a positive spin on a mostly wretched weather afternoon for baseball.
Cabrera hit a 93-mph fastball from reigning American League Cy Young winner Shane Bieber. It left his bat with an exit velocity of 101.8 mph and seemed to skip off the yellow railing atop the wall. With the flurries, even Cabrera couldn’t tell if it cleared, so he slid into second base to be sure.
The second base umpire signaled home run and the call was upheld by video review.
It was his 488th career home run and 350th as a Tiger. He and Al Kaline are the only players to accumulate at least 350 homers and 2,000 hits while wearing a Tigers uniform. It was also Cabrera’s first Opening Day homer since 2008.
Cabrera wasn’t done. Playing first base for the first time since June 18, 2019, the soon-to-be 38-year-old stole an RBI single from Josh Naylor in the fourth inning. With runners on first and second, Cabrera took a quick step to his right, dived and made a back-handed snare of Naylor’s ground ball.
From the seat of his pants, Cabrera threw to second to get the force out.
Boyd didn’t need much more help. He only allowed three hits, though he got himself in trouble in the fourth and fifth with walks. Cabrera’s play bailed him out in the fourth. And in the fifth, Boyd, with his 25th pitch of the inning, got the dangerous Jose Ramirez to fly out to right, stranding two runners.
Boyd only posted two strikeouts and seven swings and misses. But the 18 balls the Indians put in play against them had an average exit velocity of 84.8 mph – very little hard contact.
Jose Cisnero got three outs, two by strikeouts, and lefty Daniel Norris got the last out in the seventh and induced a 6-4-3 double-play from Franmil Reyes to end the eighth.
Things got a little interesting in the ninth when Indians catcher Roberto Perez lined a one-out, two-run home run to left off lefty Gregory Soto.
With two outs, Soto walked left-handed hitting Ben Gamel. He was at 20 pitches when assistant pitching coach Juan Nieves came out for a visit.
Soto though shut the door, getting Caesar Hernandez to pop out.
The Tigers got the all-important third run in the second. With Victor Reyes at first, JaCoby Jones pulled a double down the line in left. Reyes, challenging the arm of left fielder Eddie Rosario, who overthrew the cutoff man, scored all the way from first.
It was an example of the daring base running Hinch has preached all spring.
Jones ended up on third with one out but he was stranded, as Bieber buckled down. The Tigers managed just one more hit off him through six innings. He ended up striking out 12.
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