DETROIT - David Price left no doubt about his worthiness as Detroit's opening day starter, coming within one out of a shutout in the Tigers' 4-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Monday.
Price retired the first 13 Minnesota batters and allowed five hits before being pulled with two on and two out in the ninth. Joe Nathan struck out Torii Hunter for the save, although Hunter argued to plate umpire Joe West that he checked his swing.
The Twins lost in their first game under new manager Paul Molitor.
J.D. Martinez and Alex Avila homered off Phil Hughes, and Yoenis Cespedes tripled and scored in his Detroit debut. Cespedes also reached above the wall in left to catch Kurt Suzuki's drive in the third.
The Tigers acquired Price at last year's trade deadline, and manager Brad Ausmus picked him to start opening day, snapping Justin Verlander's seven-year streak of openers.
Price has started the last three games played at Comerica Park. He beat the Twins on the final day of the regular season last year, enabling the Tigers to hold off Kansas City and win the AL Central for a fourth straight year. Then Price was on the mound for Game 3 of the AL Division Series against Baltimore, when the Orioles ended Detroit's season with an impressive sweep.
The left-hander is crucial to the Tigers' hopes of holding onto the division, especially after Max Scherzer left via free agency and signed with Washington. Detroit could also use a bounce-back from Verlander, who struggled in 2014 and has been dealing with tightness in his right triceps lately. Verlander was passed over for the opening day start, and he's now on the disabled list.
Price did not allow a baserunner Monday until Kennys Vargas singled in the fifth. Martinez opened the scoring with a solo homer in the second, and Avila's two-run shot later in the inning made it 3-0.
Price struck out five without a walk. Hughes allowed four runs and eight hits in six innings. He struck out six and walked one.
Ausmus was booed when he went to the mound to check on Price with a runner on and two outs in the ninth. He left his left-hander in, but an infield single by Joe Mauer was enough.
Hunter, who spent the last two seasons with the Tigers, got a nice ovation before the game, but he wasn't happy at all with the call that ended the game, arguing with West as the umpire left the field.
Twins: Minnesota avoided any significant injury problems heading into the season, although CF Jordan Schafer crashed into the wall while trying to catch Cespedes' triple. He was fine and stayed in the game.
Tigers: Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez both made it back for opening day after offseason surgery. Cabrera had an ankle operation, and Martinez injured a knee. They missed a chunk of the exhibition season. Cabrera was hitless Monday, while Martinez contributed an eighth-inning single.
After an off-day Tuesday, Detroit RHP Anibal Sanchez faces Minnesota RHP Ricky Nolasco on Wednesday.