In first Tigers Opening Day start, Price nearly flawless

Detroit ace allows five hits, no walks over 8 2/3 scoreless innings

In first Tigers Opening Day start, Price nearly flawless

DETROIT -- David Price heard secondhand about Opening Day being a holiday in Michigan during Spring Training. His first-hand experience came on his drive downtown.

"Just the excitement around the ballpark, it's a great feeling on Opening Day," he said. "It's a holiday here in Detroit. You definitely get that sense out there on the field.

"I got it this morning driving to the park. It's 9 o'clock in the morning, I'm sitting in traffic coming to the field. That's really cool."

Come game time, Price made sure he had very little traffic to handle on the basepaths. His mastery of the Twins nearly made the holiday into an event, falling one out shy of the Tigers' first shutout since Mickey Lolich in 1970.

Price on his dominant outing

Price retired the first 13 batters he faced, briefly kindling hopes of a no-hit bid in an eventual 4-0 victory. That's becoming a pattern; he had retired his first nine batters in his Spring Training finale, and his first 10 batters in the start before that.

In both outings, Price was hit around his second trip through the order. They were Spring Training games, but it was enough of a concern that Price and pitching Jeff Jones went to work on identifying why.

"I thought he was trying to be a little too quick out of the stretch," Jones said. "What we tried to do was get him to where he was the same out of the stretch as he is out of the windup."

That wouldn't necessarily make him unhittable, but it would keep the first hit from setting up a flurry of hits.

So when Kennys Vargas lined a single just out of Nick Castellanos' reach into left field with one out in the fifth inning, Price retired Trevor Plouffe and struck out Oswaldo Arcia. When Kurt Suzuki and Jordan Schafer singled leading off the sixth, Price caught leadoff hitter Danny Santana on a 94-mph fastball before inducing an inning-ending double play from Brian Dozier.

Price leaves to huge ovation

Price struck out five batters. Three were called third strikes on fastballs.

"He's one of the best in the game for a reason," manager Brad Ausmus said, "and I think he showed that today."

Price entered the ninth with 85 pitches and a chance for a "Maddux" -- a shutout in less than 100 pitches. Brian Dozier's single extended the game and denied Price the feat.

Ausmus was booed heartily when he visited the mound, then cheered just as loud when he returned to the dugout with Price still on the mound.

"Before the game, we were talking about 100-105 [pitches]," Ausmus said, "and I just didn't want to get caught where all of a sudden he had a 14-pitch at-bat against somebody and he's at 112."

Two batters later, Joe Mauer singled, and Ausmus was back to make the change.

"I want to finish every game I start," Price said. "But I knew that was my last hitter and Joe Mauer, it's always tough to get him out four times in a game."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.