Detroit Tigers: 2020 Opening Day takeaways after first loss of season

The Cincinnati Reds defeated the Detroit Tigers 7-1 at Great American Ballpark on Friday night in an unrivaled fashion.

The Detroit Tigers were outmatched and outgunned Friday night during their Opening Day matchup against Cincinnati. From both hitting and pitching perspectives, these Motor City Bengals looked as if they didn’t deserve to share the same field with the emerging NL Central Division favorite Reds.

If there was any optimism existing amongst the Detroit faithful prior to the game, by now that ideology is surely diminished and reality is beginning to set in. Not the start the Tigers were hoping to kick off the 2020 season, Opening Day which could mean something bigger in the long run.

Here are some key takeaways from the game:

1. Detroit Tigers pay homage to Al Kaline

The Detroit Tigers paid homage to the late Al “Mr.Tiger” Kaline by wearing a number “6” patch on the sleeve of their jerseys. The incredible tribute will be well received by just about every Tigers loyalist.

However, it’s a shame that, as of now, the patch will only be donned by the team for 60 games because the impact of his contributions to the entire Detroit organization will be felt for many years to come.

2. Matthew Boyd struggled for Detroit Tigers, indicative of 2020 Tigers pitching staff.

If Matt Boyd and Sonny Gray are considered to be “aces” for their respective teams, then it will be frightening to visualize or predict what the rest of Detroit’s rotation will look like. It seems as if every pitch Boyd threw was up and over the plate. As a result, the Reds hit him hard. Extremely hard.

Unlike Gray (9 K’s), who exhibited an impressive command of the strike zone, Boyd struggled by failing to ever establish himself as a threat to paint the corners of the plate. At times, Cincinnati looked as if they had no fear of the pitchers’ inadequate arsenal of pitches.

He never was able to establish his off-speed pitches en-route to giving up six hits, four earned runs, and a home run in five innings of work, all while managing just two strikeouts and both walking and hitting two batters apiece.

It’s important to note that the home-plate umpire provided Gray with plenty of aid, due to an expanded “hometown” strike zone. The two-time All-Star was “dealing” to say the least.

3. C.J. Cron continues to stay hot at the plate for the Detroit Tigers.

Channeling my best Stuart Scott, C.J. Cron has made it easy to energetically declare that the journeyman first baseman brought his “whooping stick” with him to Detroit when signing a one-year deal this past offseason. In the top of the fourth inning, the cleanup hitter clubbed a deep fly to left field that jumped off his bat and was struck so hard that you could metaphorically hear it all the way from Cincy to Detroit.

4. The middle of the Cincinnati Reds lineup was problematic for the Detroit Tigers.

The “beef” in the middle of the Reds lineup appeared to be lean and in command of the batters’ box at all times. Joey Votto’s combination of bat-control and hand speed is Hall-of-Fame-esque, and the mere fact that he chokes up on the bat by an estimated five inches suggests that he may be Barry Bonds reincarnated in terms of plate discipline.

His homer in the bottom of the fifth inning had my mind cycling through flashbacks of Bonds’ peak years. If Votto played in either New York or Los Angeles, he’d be elevated to legend status. Mike Moustakas slimmed down this offseason and could be seen flashing some leather.

He made an excellent diving play up the middle on a hard grounder by Tigers outfielder Cameron Maybin. When he wasn’t busy settling in on defense with his new team, the “winner” was putting in work at the plate going 3-4 with a home run and 4 RBI’s in his debut.

Nick Castellanos seemed to have the inside track on Boyd, as he appeared to offer at first-pitch fastballs the entire night beside his last at-bat. His double to left-center should have been a single, but the rope was hit just hard enough for the newly-acquired free agent to exuberate an incredible display of hustle to land in scoring position. He chipped in a run.

5. Niko Goodrum did not start the 2020 season the best note, 0-3 at the plate, hopefully not indicative of 2002 season as he looks to really prove himself.

Niko Goodrum’s glove at the shortstop position is superb. His defensive effort was excellent, including the double plays he was able to turn with second baseman Jonathan Schoop. He may be a long term fit at the position because of his defensive prowess.

It was his performance at the plate in the box that would make fans wonder why he is the “everyday” role shortstop. However, his three strikeouts left me feeling as if his correct position in the batting order is more likely to exist between the seven and nine spots.

6. The Detroit Tigers third base situation looks to be bleak, but they’ve got a guy for that.

How long will Detroit Tigers fans have to wait for another third baseman to arrive in Motown? It’s become quite apparent at this point that Jeimer Candelario can’t hit Major League pitching. In my honest opinion, the experiment is over, and General Manager Al Avilla needs to call up prospect Isaac Paredes.

The Reds looked like a team that just invested $165 Million into five players during a massive offseason overhaul. But, the Tigers reminisced last season’s lackluster team that Detroit fans have grown accustomed to seeing.

Despite managing to collect a few relative free-agent upgrades, this team looks as if it will struggle in the early going of the season. You can choose to call it “rust.” After all, the team just wrapped up a long layoff that dates back to March because of COVID-19.

Instead, I will choose to declare that this team suffers from a complete lack of talent. Fast track the farm system to “the show” because this Tigers team wouldn’t have been worth the price of admission if the gates were open at Great American Ballpark today.

Thank goodness fans from Detroit weren’t able to travel and waste their pesos to witness this Opening Day snoozer on behalf of the Detroit Tigers.

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