DETROIT — Miguel Cabrera hit a drive to right field, and on a snowy day at Comerica Park, it was anyone’s guess where the ball would end up.
Terry Francona lost sight of it, and Cabrera was so uncertain he went sliding into second base, in case there was a play there.
“It was a good slide,” Cabrera said.
Of Cabrera’s 488 career home runs, this one was certainly unique. His first-inning drive through the flakes was the first homer of the 2021 Major League Baseball season and sent the Detroit Tigers over the Cleveland Indians 3-2 on Thursday.
Cabrera also added a sparkling play at first base in his first time playing the field since 2019, and Matthew Boyd (1-0) beat reigning Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber.
The Tigers welcomed their fans back to Comerica with a victory in their season opener, and they gave AJ Hinch a win in his debut as their manager. The former Houston skipper missed last season while suspended in the aftermath of the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.
The temperature at game time was 32 degrees.
“It was almost kind of laughable for everybody that we were playing baseball in an environment like that,” Hinch said. “It would come and go, then it got kind of warm when the sun came out. It’s always fun on opening day to take those mental snapshots and enjoy the moment.”
Although the weather eventually cleared up, the ballpark looked like a snow globe at times early on.
“The home run, I never even saw the ball,” said Francona, Cleveland’s manager.
Cabrera’s two-run shot barely cleared the wall, and the home run was upheld after a review, giving Detroit a 2-0 lead and Cabrera his 2,867th career hit.
Bieber (0-1) allowed another run in the second. He pitched fine after that and ended up with 12 strikeouts in six innings. The Cleveland right-hander said afterward he was kind of excited for the challenge the conditions presented.
“I’ve done a little bit of sleet in the minor leagues,” Bieber said. “That was like nice, high-quality snow, to be honest.”
Roberto Perez hit a two-run homer off Gregory Soto in the ninth, but Soto held on for the save.
The 37-year-old Cabrera could reach both 500 homers and 3,000 hits this season. His production has fallen off in recent years, but his home run was a nice moment for the small number of fans who were able to attend this opener — and he looked downright spry when he made a diving backhanded stop on Josh Naylor’s grounder in the fourth.
JaCoby Jones hit an RBI double in the second to make it 3-0, and Boyd kept the Indians quiet on offense in their first game since trading star shortstop Francisco Lindor in the offseason. The Detroit left-hander was making his second straight opening day start, and he’s hoping to bounce back from a 2020 season in which he posted a 6.71 ERA.
Boyd allowed three hits and four walks with two strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.
Bieber yielded five hits and three walks while posting a big strikeout number on opening day for a second straight season. He struck out 14 in the opener last year.
The Tigers are allowing Comerica to be filled to about 20% capacity.
Tigers: Detroit put RHP Rony Garcia on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Monday, with an abdominal strain.
Cabrera’s diving stop in the fourth may have ultimately saved the game. Cleveland had men on first and second with one out.
“Saved a run,” Hinch said. “A groundball that gets through, all of a sudden the runner’s going to go second to home.”
The Tigers designated OF Christin Stewart for assignment and selected LHP Derek Holland to the 40-man roster.
Detroit sends RHP Julio Teheran to the mound Saturday against Cleveland RHP Zach Plesac. Teheran, a former All-Star, joined the Tigers on a minor league deal and then made the team.