Week 3: April 14 to 20 (Week’s record 0-6) (2003 record 1-16)
Detroit hit the road for its first extended trip of the season this week in 2003. They would visit Minnesota, Kansas City and Oakland for 9 games in 11 days.
Seeking their first road victory of the season, the Tigers were swept out of the Metrodome and limped into Kansas City with a 1-13 record, where they promptly lost three straight to the Royals.
The team still had problems scoring runs, averaging just over two runs per game, and was shut out for the fourth time on the young season (a seven-hit, eight inning gem by future Tigers’ postseason hero Kenny Rogers) on April 17.
Painful Game of the Week: April 18–Tigers at Royals
Early in the Friday night game at Kauffman Stadium, it looked as if the Tigers would notch their elusive second win of the season, end its four-game skid, and record the first road win of 2003.
Bobby Higginson opened the scoring with a solo shot to center in the third inning. This was followed by a Craig Monroe base hit that brought home Ramon Santiago. That suddenly potent Tigers’ offense was flexing its atrophied muscles. One inning later, Santiago reached on an error, allowing Gene Kingsdale to score.
The early innings dominance shown by the Tigers must have shocked the KC faithful on that day. Baseball fever had swept in for the Royals as they came into that game at 11-3 with no losses in five games at home. The stadium was sold out (the largest crowd the Royals had welcomed at a non-Opening Day April game since 1989) and they didn’t have to wait very long to cheer.
Kansas City added single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth to even the score off of Detroit starter Nate Cornejo. and the Tigers would not score in the final seven innings of the extra inning contest. Royals’ rookie Ken Harvey sent the large crowd home happy with a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 11th off Matt Anderson.
Final: Kansas City 4, Detroit 3 (11 inn.)
(Lousy) Player of the Week: Matt Anderson
Matt Anderson came to the Detroit Tigers as the first overall pick in the 1997 draft after a successful college career at Rice University, which saw him set school records for wins (30) and saves (14) with a career ERA of 1.82. Upon his arrival in Detroit’s system, Baseball America named him 1998’s 24th best prospect.
It would be that same season of 1998 when Anderson got the call up from the Tigers, making his major league debut at Tiger Stadium on June 25 against the Chicago Cubs. It was an effective, but unremarkable debut, allowing a hit with no strikeouts in one inning of work. 1998 would turn out to be the best year of Anderson’s professional career, posting a 5-1 record out of the bullpen with a 3.27 ERA in 42 games.
In his first tour of duty with the Tigers, Todd Jones was traded to Minnesota in the middle of 2001, which promoted Anderson to the closer’s role. He saved 22 games in 2001, but a freak injury limited his action in 2002 and 2003.
In a legendary tale that would make our brethren at Octopus Thrower proud, it was widely reported and accepted that Matt had injured his arm while taking part in a promotion at Comerica Park in which fans would attempt to throw an octopus to score playoff tickets for the soon-to-be Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings. Anderson and Jeff Weaver volunteered to take part, but the injury did not occur until he tore an arm muscle during a bullpen session later that same day.
He returned to limited action in 2003 but had little success as closer, saving only three of the team’s 43 wins. He appeared in 23 games, missing most of May, June, July and August. He pitched in his final game for the Tigers on Sept. 25.
Octopus-gate (or bullpen injury–whichever you prefer) took nearly 10 mph off Anderson’s fastball and he could no longer hit triple digits. He pitched 12 games for the Colorado Rockies in 2005, posting a 12.60 ERA. After that, he bounced around from organization to organization and finally gave up the dream after being released by the Philadelphia Phillies in April of 2011.