Justin Verlander Dominates Opening Day, Tigers Beat Red Sox

J Cook@JCookBRCorrespondent IApril 5, 2012

DETROIT, MI - APRIL 05:  Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers pitches in the first inning on opening day against the Boston Red Sox at Comerica Park on April 5, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

In a game dominated by two of the MLB's best pitchers, Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers proved once again why he is the very best in the game.

The reigning American League MVP and Cy Young pitcher dominated a tough Boston lineup that included last season's AL MVP runner-up Jacoby Ellsbury. Verlander pounded first pitch strikes and dropped plenty of his back breaking curveballs off the table, keeping Boston off-balance and ineffective at the plate.

Verlander sat down 10 straight hitters following the only extra-base hit he gave up on the day, a double to David Ortiz to start the second. It wasn't until Ryan Sweeney's single in the fifth did another Red Sox hitter reach base.

On the day, Verlander struck out seven and walked just one in eight innings of near perfection. 

His only jam came in the bottom of the sixth, a result of Miguel Cabrera's first attempt of the season at fielding a hard hit ground ball at third. 

Pedroia's hard shot to third was initially ruled a hit, but was later scored an error, the first of what is sure to be many for Cabrera as he gets comfortable adjusting back to his old position. Pedroia had to hope that the ruling would stand. The change to an error moved his career attempts against Verlander to 0-for-13. 

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Verlander's final line—8 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs, 7 strikeouts, 1 walk and a no-decision. What? No win?

Tigers closer Jose Valverde ruined Verlander's great start and ended his 49-for-49 streak of save opportunities, blowing Detroit's 2-0 lead. Valverde started the ninth by allowing a lead-off double to Pedroia followed by an Adrian Gonzalez single to put runners at the corners for Boston. 

DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 12:  Jose Valverde #46 of the Detroit Tigers sits in the dugout after being pulled in the 11th inning of Game Four of the American League Championship Series after allowing four runs to the Texas Rangers at Comerica Park on October 1
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

David Ortiz's sacrifice fly to center was deep enough to score Pedroia to make it 2-1 Detroit with one out. Valverde then gave up a triple off the bat of Ryan Sweeney to score Adrian Gonzalez, tying the game 2-2.

Valverde started the top of the ninth fine, striking out Kevin Youkilis, but was then side-swiped by a flurry of thunderous Red Sox bats before finally getting Boston's Cody Ross to line out to end the inning. 

Boston starter Jon Lester was nearly as good as Verlander, only allowing a pair of back-to-back doubles off the bats of Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila to score Detroit's lone run in the bottom of the seventh.

Before Peralta and Avila's ropes, Detroit was 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position through the first six innings, stranding seven.

The Tigers added to their 1-0 lead in the bottom of the eighth when Prince Fielder's short fly ball was deep enough to score Austin Jackson from third, making it 2-0 Detroit. Jackson led off the inning with a triple to the right-center gap and had a single earlier in the game, finishing the day 3-for-5 with a run scored and an RBI.

Boston reliever Alfredo Aceves entered the game with Avila and Peralta having started a Detroit rally with back-to-back singles in the bottom of the ninth. Aceves promptly hit Ramon Santiago and loaded the bases for Austin Jackson. 

Jackson took Aceves hard down the line, giving the Tigers a 3-2 walk-off victory. His first career walk-off hit and a great way to start a very important season in his career. Verlander deserved the win, but he will surely settle for a team victory. 

Make no mistake, winning game No. 1 is important—very important. Winning the way the Tigers did today was no doubt extra special. 

The Opening Day crowd at Comerica Park was a new record 45,027. Everyone wearing an Old English "D" went home happy.