Entering a series in which the Kansas City Royals badly need to make a big statement, it was the Detroit Tigers' bats and arms that spoke loudest Friday night in a dominating 8-2 victory.
Though things would start a bit ominously with an Omar Infante triple and an Eric Hosmer sacrifice fly, the Tigers didn't waste time backing Rick Porcello up. They put pressure on James Shields with a long second inning, then broke through in the third with doubles from Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez to take the lead. After that, Detroit put together a monstrous fourth inning against Shields, scoring three more runs, two of which came on the first home run of the season by Alex Avila. Suddenly, the Tigers had a 5-1 lead.
From there, Porcello was in complete control, pitching around a Billy Butler home run in the fourth inning to provide the Tigers with seven solid innings of work, no walks, four hits and six strikeouts. Though it probably wasn't needed, Detroit added three more runs, one on a single by Martinez and the other two coming off a double by J.D. Martinez and led by a commanding 8-2 margin.
That was more than enough for the bullpen, who put the finishing touches on the game. Ian Krol pitched a scoreless eighth and Evan Reed pitched a spotless ninth, allowing the Tigers to take the series opener from the Royals.
Top Tiger: Rick Porcello. It's looking like the Tigers were right not to give up on Porcello during another offseason. So far, he's quietly been the staff's best pitcher in 2014, putting together a fantastic effort in the series opener. The key for Porcello Friday night was a six strikeouts to no walk line, which showed he had fantastic command. A 2-0 road trip is huge for Porcello's confidence, and he set the tone for his team early
Bungling Bengal: None. Not often this can be said, but Detroit played a near perfect game on the road Friday night top to bottom, leaving no struggling Tigers left to be singled out.
The Turning Point: J.D. Martinez leads off the fourth with a double. On a ball that kept carrying, Martinez got a huge inning started for his offense. Alex Avila would hit a home run later, and the Tigers would turn the inning into massive damage on Shields, who yielded three runs. If not for Martinez's double, it's likely it might not have gotten started. A positive night all around for Martinez, who doubled in two runs later in the game and is hitting .278 since getting called up.
Stat Of The Game: 10, the total number of pitches thrown by Krol and Reed in the eighth and ninth innings, two very stress free affairs. In an important road series opener, a team never wants to blow out their bullpen for the weekend. Thanks to that fantastic effort, Detroit's will remain unscathed, as both pitchers will likely be good to go for both Saturday and Sunday if need be.
Quote To Note: "Throwing first-pitch strikes I think was the biggest key." -Rick Porcello. A fantastic night for Porcello, arguably his best of the season, started with his ability to stay ahead of the hitters and not face many three-ball counts. It worked well for the pitcher, who is having a fantastic start to the year and a wonderful bounce back campaign after a choppy 2013.
What's Next: The Tigers continue their weekend series with the Royals, sending Drew Smyly (1-1) to the hill Saturday night against Danny Duffy (1-1) in a rare battle of left-handed pitchers. The game will start at 7:10 p.m. and be broadcast nationally on Fox Sports 1.Alex Avila, Baseball, Billy Butler, Detroit, Detroit Tigers, Ian Krol, J.D. Martinez, James Shields, MLB, Rick Porcello, Victor Martinez