Detroit Tigers fish food for Tampa Bay Rays in 12-2 loss: Game thread recap

Detroit Tigers center fielder Riley Greene leaps to field a ball during the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays, Saturday, April 1, 2023, in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Game 2: Detroit Tigers (0-1) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (1-0)

When: 4:10 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.

TV: Bally Sports Detroit.

Radio: WXYT-FM (97.1; other radio affiliates).


Probable starting pitchers: Tigers RHP Spencer Turnbull (4-2, 2.88 ERA in 2021; missed last season) vs. Rays RHP Zach Eflin (3-5, 4.04 ERA in 2022 with Phillies).

Tigers' lineup:

1. Nick Maton (3B)

2. Riley Greene (CF)

3. Javier Báez (SS)

4. Kerry Carpenter (RF)

5. Austin Meadows (LF)

6. Spencer Torkelson (1B)

7. Miguel Cabrera (DH)

8. Zach McKinstry (2B)

9. Eric Haase (C)

FOUR BURNING QUESTIONS: Who'll break out — Tork, Maton, or someone else?

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Game notes: It’s tough to be optimistic after the Tigers were shut out on Opening Day — just the sixth time in franchise history that has happened, and the first time since 1989. After all, the team that was shut out a franchise-record 22 times last season is riding an 11-inning scoreless streak that dates back to the final two innings of their 2022 finale — that’s a span of 178 days without a run, which … is a lot, even for the Tigers.

But it was also just Game 1 of 162 — there’s a lot of baseball left, so we should at least try to stay positive. With that in mind, here are three positive takeaways from Thursday’s opener.

AUSTIN HIT-TY LIMITS? Austin Meadows, who played in just 36 2022 games in his first campaign with the Tigers due to myriad injuries and a mental health break, quietly went 3-for-4 (including a double off tough lefty Shane McClanahan). That made him the first Tiger with three hits on Opening Day since Ian Kinsler went 3-for-6 in 11 innings against the Miami Marlins in 2016. And Meadows is the first Tiger to do it without extra innings since Austin Jackson and Jhonny Peralta went 3-for-5 and 3-for-3, respectively, against the Boston Red Sox in 2012. (In all, just 10 Tigers have had at least three hits on Opening Day this century, though we’ll note that three others did it just before the 2000s began, with Damion Easley, Luis Gonzalez and Joe Randa doing it against Tampa Bay in the franchise’s first game, back in 1998. Maybe it’s the Tropicana Field … juice?)

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MOVING QUICK: Baseball’s new rules designed to speed the game along — including a pitch clock and limited throws to first and batter timeouts — certainly seemed to have an effect on the Tigers and Rays. Despite a combined 18 baserunners and 13 strikeouts, they wrapped things up in two hours, 14 minutes. The Tigers had just two games end that quickly last season: A 5-0 win over the Minnesota Twins on June 1 that went 2:13 and a 4-0 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Sept. 11 that ran just 2:11. The Tigers’ game Thursday was the shortest of the 15 played — well, it tied with the Seattle Mariners’ 3-0 win over the Cleveland Guardians — but the pitch clock seemed to have an effect across the schedule. The average game length was just a bit over 2:45, and that included a pair of 10-9 finishes, an 11-7 game and a 5-4 game in Cincinnati that featured a combined 15 walks and 26 strikeouts, plus a pair of pitch clock violations. The lengths of those games: 3:38, 3:10, 3:04 and 3:02 — in other words, still shorter than your typical May game between the Red Sox and Yankees. And compared to last year’s openers? The 2022 average was more than 3:16, with the shortest game coming in at 2:49 and the Tigers’ 5-4 walk-off win over the Chicago White Sox clocking in at 3:30.

POWER COMPANY? It’s a good thing the Trop has artificial grass, ’cause the Tigers hit some absolute wormburners on Thursday, with four groundball outs with exit velocities above 100 mph. Three of those belonged to second-year first baseman Spencer Torkelson, continuing his run of hard-hit balls from spring training. Torkelson had groundouts on Thursday of 102.4, 100.7 and 100.3 mph — that traveled a combined 67 feet, unfortunately. (He also had a so-so 82.6 mph grounder that went 8 feet.) It’s a small sample size — just four plate appearances — but the 75% hard-hit rate is also a healthy improvement over Torkelson’s woeful 41.8% hard-hit rate last season. Just consider last season’s Opening Day, in which Torkelson put the ball in play just twice (while striking out twice) — fly balls with exit velocities of 94.7 and 84.3 mph.

OK, that’s enough being positive for one afternoon, eh? After today’s game, the Tigers and Rays wrap up their series at 1:10 p.m. Sunday, with lefty Joey Wentz going for Detroit and lefty Jeffrey Springs going for Tampa Bay. After that, the Tigers head to Houston to take on the defending World Series champion Astros for three games, while the Rays head to Washington for three games against the Nationals.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers lose to Tampa Bay Rays, 12-2: Game thread recap