The glitz, glamour and good feelings of Opening Day had completely evaporated as the Tigers went winless in Week 1, and deep into Week 2.
Week 2: April 7 to 13 (Weekly record 1-4) (2003 record 1-10)
This week, the Tigers and their fans had some good news. This was not something either group would experience very often during the season.
First, and foremost, the team finally notched its first victory of the season. It snapped the team’s nine-game losing streak and gave Alan Trammell his first managerial win.
Secondly, the Tigers lost just four games during the week, though only five were played. A scheduled day off on Monday, April 7 was extended to a two-day respite when rain washed out the first of a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals on April 8.
When play resumed on Wednesday, the Tigers scored more than two runs in a game for the first time all season, earning six, but gave up nine. The offense disappeared again for the following two games, scoring two runs and zero runs respectively against the Royals and White Sox.
Following the team’s first win on Saturday, April 12, the winning streak ended at one and they dropped the final game of Week 2, 3-2, to Chicago.
Painful Game of the Week: April 12: White Sox at Tigers
Detroit entered the Saturday game as losers of nine straight.
It was eerily similar to the start of 2002 when the Tigers began the year with 11 straight losses. New club president Dave Dombrowski did not waste any time firing manager Phil Garner, and much-maligned general manager Randy Smith halfway through the losing streak. Dombrowski took over the GM role himself and promoted coach Luis Pujols to manager for the remainder of the 106-loss campaign.
So some ghosts were excised when they beat Chicago that day, but it was a bumpy ride to that win.
Following the usual script, the opposing team grabbed an early lead with a Tony Graffanino solo shot in the second. The ever-versatile Shane Halter launched a three-run homer to left center field in the third, giving the Tigers the 3-1 lead. Later, Bobby Higginson scored on a Dean Palmer sacrifice fly to give the Tigers a 4-1 lead in the fifth.
Starter Nate Cornejo kept the White Sox (6-4 at the time) at bay through the remainder of his day, allowing seven hits, and one run in six innings. Franklin German and Matt Anderson pitched the rest of the way (aside from one batter faced by Jamie Walker). German allowed two runs in the eighth and Anderson got the first two batters he faced in the ninth, including future Tiger Magglio Ordonez. He allowed a single and hit Graffanino to put the go-ahead run on base before fanning Aaron Rowand to finally notch the first Tigers’ win of 2003.
Final: Detroit 4, Chicago 3
(Lousy) Player of the Week: Nate Cornejo
Perhaps no one was more symbolic of the failed Randy Smith era in Detroit than Nate Cornejo.
Drafted by the Tigers in the first round of the 1998 draft (34th overall), Cornejo was widely considered the top prospect in the Tigers’ system, and one of the top 100 prospects in all of baseball. Sadly, he never panned out during an abbreviated big league career.
Nate made his major league debut on Aug. 8, 2001 and was given the start at The Ballpark in Arlington. It was not a storybook start to the prized prospect’s career, as he allowed six runs on nine hits over three innings of an eventual 19-6 win over the Texas Rangers. He finished that season 4-4 with a 7.38 ERA.
That ERA would drop in year three for Cornejo (4.67), but he still ended up losing 17 games in 2003. He would appear in just five games for the Tigers in 2004 (earning his final big league win in the 2004 home opener), but posted an ERA over eight in those starts.
He languished in the Tigers’ system throughout 2004 and 2005, and retired in July 2006 after a brief stint in the White Sox system.