Detroit Tigers suffer first Opening Day shutout since 1989 in 4-0 loss to Tampa Bay Rays

Detroit Free Press

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The schedule is brutal, and every game matters.

The Detroit Tigers begin the 2023 season with 40 games in a row against teams with a winning record last season. They won’t catch a breather until the middle of May when the Pittsburgh Pirates come to town. Falling out of postseason contention before the summer months, just like the past two seasons, is a real possibility.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, the Tigers’ Opening Day starter in back-to-back seasons, looked sharp but didn’t get any run support in a 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday afternoon in front of 25,025 fans at Tropicana Field.

The shutout was the first on Opening Day for the Tigers since 1989, when they also lost 4-0 to the Texas Rangers on the road.

The Rays took a 1-0 lead on Jose Siri’s home run in the third inning.

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The Tigers struck out six times with just three walks while facing one of the nastiest starting pitchers in the American League: Rays left-hander Shane McClanahan, a first-time All-Star who started the 2022 game, was brilliant en route to six scoreless innings, featuing 16 whiffs.

McClanahan’s departure didn’t change anything on the scoreboard, but the Tigers did threaten in the seventh inning against lefty reliever Colin Poche. Miguel Cabrera, playing his final Opening Day in his 21st season, doubled to the left-field wall with two outs, followed by a rare walk from Jonathan Schoop.

Ryan Kreidler, who hammered an 0-2 fastball, nearly scored them. Manuel Margo read the line drive off his bat, hustled to the right-field corner and completed a diving catch for the third out in the seventh, preventing extra bases and possibly two runs.

The Tigers went down 1-2-3 in the ninth inning.

In his return to Tropicana Field, former Ray Austin Meadows finished 3-for-4 with one double and two singles. Javier Báez singled in the first inning, walked on five pitches in the third and struck out swinging on three pitches in the sixth.

E-Rod runs out of gas

As the Opening Day starter, Rodriguez executed his pitches and absolutely dominated through five innings — aside from his poor middle-middle cutter to Siri in the third inning — but in the sixth, he completely lost his velocity and command.

Two of the three batters he faced reached safely.

Manager A.J. Hinch replaced him with right-handed reliever Jason Foley. His first assignment: Team Mexico star Randy Arozarena. He hit .450 with six walks and five strikeouts across six games in the World Baseball Classic, and facing Foley in the sixth inning, he showed that he’s still red hot.

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Arozarena hit a two-strike slider back up the middle for an RBI single, putting the Rays ahead 2-0. The next batter, pinch-hitter Luke Raley, increased the Rays’ lead to 3-0 by hitting a changeup back up the middle for an RBI single.

Both hits would have been outs with the infield shifted.

But the shift has been banned this season.

Rodriguez allowed three runs on three hits with two walks and five strikeouts in 5⅓ innings, throwing 54 of 88 pitches. He generated eight whiffs — two fastballs, three cutters and three changeups — with 16 called strikes.

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Right-handed reliever Mason Englert, whom the Tigers selected in the Rule 5 draft from the Texas Rangers, stood on the mound for the eighth inning.

It was his MLB debut.

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Wander Franco, the first batter he faced, won a nine-pitch battle and cranked a fastball down the middle of the strike zone. He hit the ball 402 feet to left-center field for a solo home run.

The Tigers trailed 4-0.

But Englert bounced back and retired the next three batters.

Contact Evan Petzold at or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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