Fielder homers twice, lifts Tigers over Yanks
APR 05, 2013 4:47p ET
Fielder did it Friday afternoon with two homers that gave the sellout home-opening crowd something to slap hands about and scream their lungs out over. He was the roar behind an 8-3 victory over the New York Yankees at Comerica Park.
The Yankees — swept by Detroit in last year’s ALCS — must be getting pretty sick and tired of having it handed to them at Comerica, don’t you think?
The first homer of the year by Fielder broke the spirit of the Yankees, who had just moved ahead, 3-2, on a two-run homer by new third baseman Kevin Youkilis. Fielder made it 6-3 with one violent swing against Boone Logan, the left-hander who was brought on to face him after starter Ivan Nova hit Cabrera with a pitch to put two on with two out.
The Chevrolet Fountain shot streams of water high above the shrubs and ivy in center field after the liner reached the first row of grandstand seats and umpire Brian O’Nora twirled his right hand to signal a homer. Then Fielder and Cabrera got to do their first salt-and-pepper shaker celebration and hug of the season on the way back to the dugout.
It was Fielder's 261st career homer, but his first on an Opening Day anywhere.
“It’s something that as a kid you dream about,” Fielder said.
There was a twinkle in his eyes as he spoke and mentioned that it was a special thrill to have his two young sons and wife here for the game from Orlando.
There was no doubt on his second homer, a two-run shot in the seventh after a leadoff walk to Cabrera. Fielder hit a high-arcing shot off right-hander Shawn Kelley deep into the grandstands in right field.
Yankees right fielder Brennan Boesch, Prince's former Tigers teammate, never even turned around to track it. The ball was a souvenir waiting to happen the second it came off Fielder’s bat.
“You never feel the ball when you hit it good like that,” Fielder said with a grin. “So, hopefully, I don’t feel the ball too often.”
Homers are exciting on their own majestic merit. But there were several reasons why Fielder’s shots were more than just a home-run derby show.
Most important, the go-ahead blast was the first homer of the season for a powerful team that had just lost two of three games in Minnesota. Alex Avila also hit a tape-measure solo homer, in the sixth inning, and the Tigers were feeling like the Tigers again.
“Hitting is contagious in general,” Avila said. “You see one guy do it and it’s almost like a confidence-booster ... Youkilis had just put them ahead with a homer (in the top of the fifth), and leave it to (Fielder) to get everything going.
"I would not say we were down. But you’ve got to get it going and, boom, he hits it out.”
Fielder has two homers in two at-bats against Kelley, but Logan had his number. Fielder was 1-for-6 off the tough southpaw with only a single to show.
After spending seven years in the National League, he’s finally getting a feel for the pitchers he'll face on a daily basis.
“Last year, he was just trying to feel out the league," Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter said. "It's hard when you're coming from the National League and you don't know the American League pitchers. We pitch different here in the American League.
"Last year, he was just trying to feel it out and he still hit .313 (with 30 homers and 108 RBIs). But this year, I think he's been around the block a couple times with the American League pitching and you saw what happened today. I think he's ready to play and do some damage."
Fielder said having Victor Martinez batting behind him is going to force pitchers to throw more strikes his way and not pitch around him. That prospect has been discussed for months, and on Friday it came to fruition.
After the Twins walked Cabrera ahead of Fielder to load the bases on Thursday, Fielder fanned on a checked swing. Then he struck out his first time up Friday and was robbed with a great, leaping catch by Boesch the next time up.
It would have been easy to dwell on yesterday and to begin feeling snake-bit, but Fielder showed that he's a professional hitter by staying focused.
“That’s the beauty of baseball,” Fielder said, “you can make it up the next day. And if you are still thinking of yesterday, today isn’t going to be too good.”
Or, as Hunter said, “One day you are the windshield; the next day you are the bug.”