DETROIT (Detroit News) - Not many places to go when you've just loaded the bases, with no outs, in the first inning of your first big-league game.
More people than have ever watched you pitch (30,288) seem to be staring holes through you. And now a designated hitter, Jeff Keppinger, is stepping to the plate, wielding a bat like an executioner grabbing an axe.
Drew Smyly was oh-so close to big-league baseball trauma Thursday at Comerica Park. But with some first-inning counsel from manager Jim Leyland, who headed to the mound like an EMS worker racing to an accident scene, Smyly and his fastball escaped mayhem and helped push the Tigers past the Rays, 7-2, at Comerica Park.
"I could see he was getting close to Panicsville, and I didn't want that to happen," Leyland said of his first-inning intervention, which helped steady a 23-year-old left-hander who two years ago was pitching at the University of Arkansas and who Thursday made his big-league debut. "You don't want something bad to happen."
All that remained once Smyly settled was for the Tigers to do their customary job of lighting that new Comerica scoreboard. And, of course, for a bullpen to behave, all of which happened as the Tigers won their second series of the season and popped their record to 5-1.