Alex Gonzalez had an up-and-down afternoon for his debut as the Detroit Tiger. First, he was booed after he booted a ground ball at shortstop. Then, he was the hero.
Gonzalez pulled a single into left field in the bottom of the ninth to plate pinch runner Tyler Collins to give the Detroit Tigers the walk-off 4-3 victory over AL Central foe, the Kansas City Royals on Opening Day.
In the seventh inning, Gonzalez roped a hanging breaking ball into the left field gap for a triple that plated Alex Avila to tie the game as well. Gonzalez has had the Detroit fans against him from the get-go and the error in the fourth inning didn’t help his cause whatsoever. He was able to makeup for the error as it turned out he was the player of the game for the Tigers.
Victor Martinez couldn’t have opened the 2014 season any better, either. In his first at-bat, Martinez laid into the 1-2 offering from Royals starter James Shields and sent the ball out to the right field grandstand at Comerica Park to give the Tigers an early 1-0 lead.
The Royals were able to put three runs on the board in the third inning to give them a two-run lead until a couple of triples and a wild pitch tied the game for the Tigers 3-3 in the seventh inning.
Austin Jackson got things going in the seventh for the Tigers with a triple off of Royals reliever Aaron Crow. Two batters later, Nick Castellanos struck out swinging, but the ball went past Royals catcher Salvador Perez and Austin Jackson trotted home to cut the deficit to one. Next, came the first round of the Gonzalez heroics.
I came across this statistic, after Gonzalez had hit his first triple since 2011, that was pretty interesting.
Tigers never had two triples in a game last year. Had two in the seventh inning today. (Researched on http://t.co/QSOAtOO8WS.)
— Freep Tigers (@freeptigers) March 31, 2014
Jackson has 38 career triples in just four major league seasons, and Tigers fans know about Jackson’s speed on the bases, but Gonzalez hitting a triple extremely unlikely (30 triples in 1400 games coming into today).
Justin Verlander started his seventh straight Opening Day game as a Tiger and was steady through six innings of work, allowing six hits and two earned runs. Verlander only struck out two batters on the day while walking three as well which is uncharacteristic for the former AL MVP.
Despite allowing three runs in the top of the fourth inning, Verlander was able to pitch his way out of a bases-loaded jam to stop the bleeding which ultimately allowed the Tigers to make a change later in the game.
Salvador Perez hit the ball all over the field on Monday, going 4-for-4 with two double and one RBI. James Shields was on the bump for the Royals pitched well until the Tigers got to him during the seventh inning. Shields left the game with only Martinez’s home run on the board, but two men on. Shields finished the game allowing five hits and three earned runs while striking out three and walking one over 6 1/3 innings.
- Miguel Cabrera delivered a double for the Tigers as he went 1-for-3, adding a walk as well. Cabrera has been the talk of the Tigers recently, thanks to his massive eight year extension set to kick in for the 2016 season, and everything looks like Cabrera will hit like Cabrera in 2014.
- What were the odds Martinez would hit a home run in his first at-bat of the season? After hitting only 14 homers in 2013, Martinez started 2014 with the long ball, solidifying his role as Cabrera’s protection in the lineup.
- Castellanos went 2-for-4 in his debut as the Tigers’ starting third baseman. He attempted to stretch his first hit of the season from a single to a double, but three-time Gold Glove winner Alex Gordon gunned down Castellanos with ease. Castellanos best tool is his bat, and he put that skill on display for Tigers fans on Opening Day.
- Alex Avila looks to be off to a better start than he was in 2013. He went 1-for-2 with two walks before he was pinch ran for in the bottom of the ninth inning. Avila has been mentioned by many baseball writers as someone who could have a bounce back season.
- Tyler Collins scored the game-winning run for the Tigers in his first major league action of his career. Collins subbed in for Avila after he walked. Collins made the team out of spring training because of an injury to platoon left fielder Andy Dirks.
- The bullpen (Evan Reed, Al Alburquerque and Joe Nathan) allowed one hit over three innings, shutting the door on any opportunity for the Royals to extend their lead. The bullpen was a question mark all offseason, but the unit was solid in their first three innings of the season.
The Tigers (1-0) have Tuesday off, but will resume the series against the Royals (0-1) on Wednesday at Comerica Park. Max Scherzer will get the ball for the Tigers as they look for their second win of the season against Jason Vargas and the Royals. First pitch is scheduled for 1:08 p.m.