TORONTO — Christin Stewart hit a two-run homer in the 10th inning and the Detroit Tigers opened their season with a 2-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday, following a tight pitching duel between Marcus Stroman and Jordan Zimmerman.
Stewart launched an 0-2 slider off Daniel Hudson over the right-field wall. Jeimer Candelario had started the rally for Detroit (1-0) with a leadoff double.
Shane Greene pitched the bottom of the 10th for the save and Victor Alcantara earned the win after a sparkling start from Jordan Zimmerman.
The Tigers right-hander, who allowed just one hit over seven innings, had a perfect game broken up with a two-out single from Teoscar Hernandez in the seventh.
Hernandez, one of only two Jays (0-1) with a hit all game, laced a sharp liner up the middle on Zimmerman’s 65th pitch. Tigers second baseman Josh Harrison dove and got his glove on it before firing a desperation throw to first, but Hernandez beat the ball to the bag.
Zimmerman also struck out four and threw 70 pitches, 57 for strikes.
7 innings, 7 Ks, 0 Runs
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) March 28, 2019
Stroman, who had a rough 2018 with a 4-9 record and 5.54 earned-run average, had preached from the beginning of spring training that he was poised for a big comeback.
He came out with an emphatic first start to 2019, walking four batters but not allowing a hit until the sixth inning — a two-out single from Nicholas Castellanos.
The 27-year-old gave up just two hits total over seven innings while striking out seven, including all three batters he faced in the fifth inning. He let out an emphatic roar after striking out Grayson Greiner for a third time to end his outing in the seventh.
Rookie manager Charlie Montoyo, making his managerial debut at the MLB level, said before the game that he was confident in his team’s chances with Stroman on the mound.
“Man, he was really good (in spring training). That’s one of the things I feel good about this game today is knowing that Stroman is on the mound, I feel good about it. I have a lot of confidence in him. He looks like the guy I saw two years ago.”
Montoyo relished his pre-game introduction.
Grinning ear-to-ear, the visibly enthusiastic 53-year-old sprinted onto the field and through a handshake line of players when he was announced before the game.
Rowdy Tellez, who was called up from the minors to serve as Toronto’s DH after veteran Kendrys Morales was traded to Oakland the night before, was 0-for-2 with a walk. Tellez received a loud ovation from the 45,048 in attendance when he was announced into the game.
Joe Biagini and closer Ken Giles combined on six consecutive strikeouts over the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, for Toronto.
Kevin Pillar, who’s become known for his defensive gems over the years, made a nice catch in centre field in the third, crashing into the wall as he caught a line drive off Jordy Mercer.
While the Blue Jays aren’t expected to contend for a playoff spot this season, Montoyo is hesitant to use the term “rebuild” in describing Toronto’s situation.
“Nobody in (the clubhouse) is thinking about rebuilding. Everybody’s ready to win games,” Montoyo said. “I heard that word last year with the Rays … and they won 90 games. And they know that. I brought that up in my first meeting with the players and we’re going to compete every day and we’re going to play to win.”
NOTES: Thursday’s games was the earliest home opener in Toronto’s franchise history, one day ahead of last year’s March 29 opener against the Yankees. … Former Blue Jays and Tigers pitcher Jack Morris threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press