Price falls 1 out short of shutout, Tigers beat Twins 4-0
DETROIT (AP) For the first time in eight years, somebody other than Justin Verlander was starting on opening day for Detroit.
David Price looked plenty worthy.
Price came within one out of a shutout in the Tigers' 4-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Monday, retiring the first 13 batters he faced and allowing five hits before being pulled with two on and two out in the ninth.
Joe Nathan struck out Torii Hunter for the save as the Tigers handed Paul Molitor a loss in his first game as Minnesota's manager.
''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 the first game, snapping Verlander's seven-year streak of openers. Price struck out five without a walk.
J.D. Martinez and Alex Avila homered off Phil Hughes, and Yoenis Cespedes doubled, tripled and scored twice in his Detroit debut. Cespedes also reached above the wall in left to catch Kurt Suzuki's drive in the third.
Price has started the last three games played at Comerica Park. He beat the Twins on the final day of the regular season last year, enabling the Tigers to hold off Kansas City and win the AL Central for a fourth straight season. Then Price was on the mound for Game 3 of the AL Division Series against Baltimore, when the Orioles ended Detroit's season with an impressive sweep.
The left-hander is crucial to the Tigers' hopes of holding onto the division, especially after Max Scherzer left via free agency and signed with Washington. Detroit could also use a bounce-back from Verlander, who struggled in 2014 and has been dealing with tightness in his right triceps lately. Verlander was passed over for the opening day start, and he is expected to go on the disabled list.
Price did not allow a baserunner until Kennys Vargas singled in the fifth. Martinez opened the scoring with a homer in the second, and Avila's two-run shot later in the inning made it 3-0.
Ausmus was booed when he went to the mound to check on Price with a runner on and two outs in the ninth. He left his left-hander in, but an infield single by Joe Mauer was enough. Price threw 101 pitches.
''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.''
Hunter, who spent the last two seasons with the Tigers, got a nice ovation before the game, but he wasn't happy at all with the call that ended the ninth, arguing to plate umpire Joe West that he checked his swing.
''I think he had dinner reservations or a concert to play in,'' Hunter said. ''But that was terrible. We come out and do our job every day - that's what I do. I come ready to play, do my job, I battle at the plate. We ask you to do your job as well, and Joe West needs to do his job, and he didn't do it well.''
West's reply: ''I thought he swung, so I said he swung. They're all great players, and any time you get called out at the end of the game on something like that, they're going to be upset, so I understand that.''
Hughes allowed four runs and eight hits in six innings. He struck out six and walked one.
The Tigers traded for Cespedes in the offseason, parting with right-hander Rick Porcello in the deal. The new outfielder made a solid first impression, especially when he got back to the wall and robbed Suzuki.
''He just missed making a catch like that in my last start in spring training,'' Price said. ''It kind of just bounced off his glove. But that one, it was awesome.''
Twins: Minnesota avoided any significant injury problems heading into the season, although CF Jordan Schafer crashed into the wall while trying to catch Cespedes' triple. He was fine and stayed in the game.
Tigers: Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez both made it back for opening day after offseason surgery. Cabrera had an ankle operation, and Martinez injured a knee. They missed a chunk of the exhibition season. Cabrera was hitless Monday, while Martinez contributed an eighth-inning single.
After an off day Tuesday, Detroit RHP Anibal Sanchez faces Minnesota RHP Ricky Nolasco on Wednesday.