Pitchers are marvelous athletes, smart and surprisingly strong, with great footwork and great hand-to-eye coordination. Just the mere fact that they can throw a ball 90 feet, at 90 miles per hour, and marvelously straight, is incredible. David Price made it look easy.
What Tiger fans witnessed Monday was nothing less than stellar. They witnessed history as Price became the first African American to start on opening day for the Tigers in 47 years. Earl Wilson was the first in 1968.
Price exorcised any doubt that he was the right choice to be the opening day starter. He came within one out of pitching a complete game shutout in the Tigers’ 4-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins. He retired the first 13 batters he faced and allowed five hits before being pulled with two on and two out in the ninth.
“It’s always big to go out there and put up zeros and pitch late into the game,” Price said. “To be able to do it on opening day, that definitely makes it a little bit more special. I felt good.”
The Tigers acquired Price at last year’s trade deadline, and manager Brad Ausmus picked him to start opening day, snapping Justin Verlander’s seven-year streak of openers. Price struck out five without a walk. He also did not allow a baserunner Monday until Minnesota’s Kennys Vargas singled in the fifth.
He is crucial to the Tigers’ hopes of holding onto the division, especially after Max Scherzer left via free agency and signed with the Washington Nationals.
And because Verlander started the season on the disabled list, Price has become even more important, if the Tigers are going to win another division title. He did not allow a baserunner Monday until Minnesota’s Kennys Vargas singled in the fifth. By that time Price was in full control. J.D. Martinez opened the scoring with a solo homer in the second inning, and Alex Avila’s two-run shot later in the inning made it 3-0. That was all he needed from there.
Fans were so impressed with Price’s effort that Ausmus was booed when he went to pull him with a runner on and two outs in the ninth.
“It never surprises me when David pitches like that — he’s one of the best in the business for a reason,” Ausmus said. “With us being fresh out of spring training, we were thinking 100-105 pitches, so when Mauer came up, I went out and checked on him and told him that was his last hitter no matter what.”
Opening day is always a day full of optimism, sort of like a holiday, where everyone is happy and full of love. That minute when you’re the ultimate homer. It’s the day when the road to the World Series begins. It’s a day of challenges, predictions and statements. A time to enjoy the moment. Because right now…the Tigers are undefeated.
Zack Burgess is an award winning journalist. He is the Director/Owner of OFF WOODWARD MEDIA, LLC, where he works as a writer, editor and communications specialist. His work can be seen at zackburgess.com. Twitter: @zackburgess1