MIAMI, Florida -- The Detroit Tigers handed the ball to fifth starter Shane Greene in the bottom of the eleventh inning after the closer, Francisco Rodriguez, blew a five-run lead. Greene shut the door and the Tigers defeated the Miami Marlins on 2016 Opening Day, 8-7.
"We said all spring that this guy can pitch big innings for us," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said regarding Greene.
Rodriguez had an extreme meltdown on the hill during his first save chance in a Tigers uniform. The 34-year-old entered the game with a three-run lead and had to battle the five, six and seven hitters in the lineup of the Marlins. Two of the first three hitters reached base and Rodriguez, a right-hander, gave up back-to-back two-out doubles, which allowed Miami to tie the game.
"I don't remember the last time I got knocked around like that," Rodriguez said. "Every pitch was up in the middle of the zone. It's frustrating."
Miguel Cabrera and the Tigers struck first as the slugger grounded out, but scored Ian Kinsler, who in the second inning knocked a three-run home run to left field for a 4-0 edge. Nick Castellanos made his way on the box score with a sacrifice fly to right field scoring Justin Upton.
In his Marlins debut, Wei-Yin Chen went 5.0 innings and tossed 76 pitches. The 30-year-old left-handed pitcher gave up five runs on nine hits with three strikeouts, but never yeilded a walk.
"I didn't pitch as well as I hoped," Chen said through a translator. "I didn't really do my job, allowing a lot of runs, but this is just one game."
Justin Verlander had the game on cruise control for the Tigers, but hit a stump in the road during the sixth inning. After Dee Gordon got on base with a double, Marcell Ozuna scored him with an RBI single. The next batter, Giancarlo Stanton, hit a 409 foot two-run home run to left center field to cut the Marlins deficit against the Tigers to two runs.
The right-handed ace of Detroit gave up three runs on three hits and two walks across 6.0 innings of work. He struck out five hittes with 98 overall pitches, which 64 went for strikes. Along with the solid start, Verlander became the first Tigers pitcher to get a hit on Opening Day since Mickey Lolich on April 6, 1971.
Christian Yelich hit a sacrifice fly to cut the Tigers lead to just one run, but the Tigers got two runs back to take a 7-4 lead into the bottom of the ninth. Anthony Gose hit a towering home run to right and Victor Martinez hit a pinch-hit solo shot for the Tigers in the top of the ninth.
Rodriguez was called on with a 7-4 lead in the bottom of the nine and gave up a sacrifice fly to Adeiny Hechavarria, RBI double to Derek Dietrich and RBI double to Gordon. The three runs crossed home plate and the game was tied.
In the top of the eleventh inning, Kinsler singled to left field off Craig Breslow, who took the loss, to score Gose. With an 8-7 lead, Greene shut the door to record the first save of his career.
"It didn't start off very well and it didn't end very well," new Miami manager Don Mattingly said. "But there was a lot of good mixed in there, so I'm happy about that."
The Marlins will send ace Jose Fernandez to the hill on Wednesday to battle against the Tigers, who will oppose with Anibal Sanchez. Believe it or not, Sanchez went 44-45 for the Marlins from 2006-2012.