Opening Day at Comerica Park makes for a party in Detroit every year. But the home team doesn't always cooperate with a win. Over the past 10 years, the Tigers are 4-6 in their home openers, sending Detroit fans home disappointed more often than not.
But when the Tigers have won, they've usually won big, scoring double-digit runs in three of those four wins. Those blowouts were helped along by three of the hitting performances listed here. But there have also been a couple of notable pitching efforts, and they're included, as well.
Here are five standout Opening Day performances from the Tigers during the past 10 years:
5. Jeff Weaver, April 3, 2001: Weaver has been something of a baseball punchline since the Tigers traded him in 2002. But during his three-and-a-half seasons in Detroit, he was often the best thing to watch. Weaver also pitched like he was the only chance the Tigers had to win.
He threw a complete game against the Twins in 2001's home opener, allowing three runs and six hits. Unfortunately for Weaver, the Tigers could only manage one run versus Brad Radke, and that lack of support resulted in one of many tough losses he took in Detroit.
4. Jeremy Bonderman, April 4, 2005: The Tigers haven't had too many pitching standouts in recent home openers. But Bonderman looked like the ace he was expected to be against the Royals. Pitching before a national ESPN audience, Bondo allowed only one run and struck out seven in a seven-inning effort. The lineup gave him plenty of run support that day (which we'll discuss later), which may have helped Bondo relax.
3. Bobby Higginson, April 8, 2004: Higginson is another player who became a punchline later in his career. Batting seventh in the lineup in 2004's home opener was probably an indication of how far he had fallen. But Higginson reminded us that he was once the team's best hitters and a fan favorite with his performance. Higgy hit a double and triple, driving in four runs in 10-6 Tigers win over the Twins.
(That triple, by the way, came off current Tiger Brad Thomas. Apparently, he had trouble getting lefties out back then, too.)
2. Miguel Cabrera, April 10, 2009: Opening Day in Detroit has rarely been as fun on the field as in 2009, when the Tigers stomped the Rangers for a 15-2 win. (Remember when the Rangers couldn't win at Comerica Park?) Cabrera led the run parade against Kris Benson, driving in six runs and batting 3-for-5. Four of those RBIs came on a fourth-inning grand slam hit to deep left-center field.
1. Dmitri Young, April 4, 2005: The Tigers looked like a team on the rise in 2005, with Magglio Ordonez and Troy Percival joining the team. But Da Meat Hook was in his fourth year with the Tigers and the incumbent big bat in the lineup. Young showed what a potent lineup Detroit could have when everyone was clicking, hitting three home runs and driving in five runs. Two of those homers came off former Tiger Jose Lima. (It was definitely not Lima Time for him that day.) And it not only happened on a sunny day at Comerica Park, but before a national television audience on ESPN.
Young went on to have a good season, batting .271/.325/.471 with 21 homers and 72 RBIs. But that home opener was the beginning of a last hurrah with the Tigers, as Young's tenure in Detroit fell apart the next year.
** Personally, Young's performance holds a special place for me, as I was a student at Iowa in 2005. This was before the days of MLB.TV and MLB Extra Innings, so the only way I could see the Tigers was if they played the White Sox or happened to be on a national telecast. I can't remember if I skipped class to see the game (probably) or had a free afternoon. But it was great to watch the Tigers dominate that day.