DETROIT -- The Tigers learned some things about their team after dodging raindrops and bundling up for the cold over the last few days.They're 0-3 for the first time since 2008 after Sunday night's 8-6 loss to the Pirates completed a day-night doubleheader sweep as well as a three-game season-opening
DETROIT -- The Tigers learned some things about their team after dodging raindrops and bundling up for the cold over the last few days.
They're 0-3 for the first time since 2008 after Sunday night's 8-6 loss to the Pirates completed a day-night doubleheader sweep as well as a three-game season-opening series. But they had the tying run at the plate or on base in the final at-bat of all three games. They had a game-winning run overturned on replay in a wild Opening Day marathon Friday, then squandered eight very good innings from Michael Fulmer in a 1-0 loss Sunday afternoon.
They have a veteran hitter on the rebound in Jose Cabrera, whose solo homer and RBI double Sunday night nearly led the team back. They have a blossoming hitter in Nicholas Castellanos, who led the AL in triples last year and hit his first of 2018 Sunday night. They have a young hitter ahead of them in Jeimer Candelario.
They have young, inconsistent pitching, which showed again Sunday night as a close game got away from them in the middle innings. And they have a veteran manager holding the group together and seeking the positives through a rough weekend.
"We've got good players and we can do some things," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We're finding out what we have, trying to figure out our bullpen and getting guys in the right spots. We haven't been through the rotation yet.
"I know what we have. I saw it all spring. These guys can do some things. They can hit. We're going to get better catching the ball as we go along with more experience with some of our younger guys."
Sunday night showed both extremes. While Cabrera went 3-for-4 with eight total bases, two RBIs and two runs scored, spot starter Ryan Carpenter gave up three runs in as many innings. Starter-turned-reliever Buck Farmer struck out the Pirates in order in the fourth inning with 95 mph fastballs, then gave up five runs in the Pirates' go-ahead fifth, eventually taking the loss.
"Fourth inning, it was good," Farmer said. "Fifth inning, I started leaving it arm side."
Drew VerHagen, who didn't retire a batter on Opening Day, Warwick Saupold and Joe Jimenez tossed four scoreless innings on one hit from there to allow the Tigers to claw back. These are the ups and downs this bullpen is likely to endure for a while as Gardenhire tests young arms in different roles, trying to figure out who can pitch through high-leverage situations.
The ups and downs of their defense were on display as well, all weekend, sometimes alternating highlight plays with mental mistakes as Rule 5 pick Victor Reyes did in his Major League debut. Niko Goodrum's Tigers debut began with an RBI double in his first at-bat to give Detroit a 2-0 lead, then ended with the final out of Felipe Rivero's second save of the day.
In short, this was the look of a young, rebuilding team, trying to overcome inexperience with eagerness, having to reinforce fundamentals time and again, hoping players can learn on the fly enough to get through a potentially long season that will have its highlights.
"We had a chance in the first one. We had a chance in [the second] one," Gardenhire said. "We just have to keep playing, and that's what they're doing."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Reyes makes an impression: Reyes didn't have to wait long to find the ball in his big league debut, chasing after Jordy Mercer's sinking liner for a sliding catch in left field. Statcast™ rated it a four-star catch, with Reyes covering 27 feet in about 2.8 seconds for a 44 percent catch probability. Reyes said through translator Bryan Loor-Almonte that the catch allowed him to relax after being nervous for his first Major League appearance, though he later left with a right forearm laceration following a collision with shortstop Jose Iglesias. More >
Cabrera goes oppo: The Tigers' first home run of the season was a familiar-looking shot for Cabrera, who took a Chad Kuhl fastball in the sixth inning and sent an opposite-field loft into the right-field seats for his 463rd career homer. The ball left his bat with a 106 mph exit velocity, according to Statcast™, traveling an estimated 383 feet. It marked his fourth ball in play with an exit velocity over 100 mph this season; his ninth-inning double made it five.
"Three tough days of baseball because of the weather, but our guys are playing, and they're excited, and we should be 1-2." -- Gardenhire on the series, still chafing about the replay overturn on Opening Day
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
According to research from STATS, Sunday's Pirates-Tigers twin-bill marked the earliest doubleheader by date in Major League history. Game 2 was also the earliest night game by date in Comerica Park history, beating the second game of the 2003 season by one night.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Batting with Diaz on first base in the third inning, Harrison smacked a 2-2 pitch from Carpenter off the left-field wall. Harrison sped into second, as the hit was ruled a double. The Pirates prompted a crew-chief review, and the replay official definitively determined the ball struck an area that is out of play. The call on the field was overturned, and Harrison rounded the bases with his first home run of the season.
Tigers:Francisco Liriano takes the mound for his Detroit debut Monday afternoon as the Tigers open a three-game series against the Royals with a 1:10 p.m. ET start at Comerica Park. Liriano signed with the Tigers during Spring Training after splitting last season between the Blue Jays' rotation and the Astros' bullpen.
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Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.