Motor City Bengals has picked the top 10 games of the Detroit Tigers’ 2014 season. We continue with #8 today and will present another game each Sunday until reaching the best Tigers’ game of the season.
#8: March 31, Comerica Park — Detroit, Michigan
The Detroit Tigers figured to have a tough Opening Day when it was announced the pesky Kansas City Royals would be the opponents on the near holy day in Michigan. Many picked the Royals for second–many of us were right, but the Royals would go on to exceed those expectations and clinch perhaps the most unexpected World Series berth since the 2006 Tigers.
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But on this day, expectations were just that: expectations.
There were some red flags raised when, in one of his first acts as a big league manager, Brad Ausmus announced that Justin Verlander would start Opening Day over reigning Cy Young winner Max Scherzer.
Nonetheless, Verlander took the hill and experienced a decent outing. While he didn’t overpower the Royals’ batters, he did what he needed to, going six innings scattering six hits on three runs (two earned).
The Tigers took an early lead in the second inning when Victor Martinez launched the first of many 2014 homers into the Comerica Park stands for a 1-0 Detroit lead. Two innings later, Verlander got into trouble by issuing a one out walk to Alex Gordon and Salavdor Perez drove him in to tie the score. Perez scored a couple batters later and the third run of the inning scored on an error by Detroit shortstop Alex Gonzalez.
SeaBass had been a head scratching pickup late in Spring Training. A non-roster invitee of the Baltimore Orioles, it was iffy if the 40-year old veteran would even make the team despite a decent spring. The Tigers betting that the O’s would cut him, and allow another team to pick him up on waivers before he got around to them, traded Steve Lombardozzi for Gonzalez.
Earlier in the inning Gonzalez experienced an odd play when the first run scored. It appeared had he turned and thrown to home he may have had a chance to throw out Gordon, but he held onto the ball. Later in the inning he allowed Nori Aoki to reach base via an error and Kansas City’s third run scored when Verlander issued a bases loaded walk to the next batter, Omar Infante.
Gonzalez was becoming a big goat on Opening Day, but he would atone for it later. Kansas City held Detroit scoreless through three innings until the bottom of the seventh. After a wild pitch scored Austin Jackson, Gonzalez flared a triple to score the game’s tying run. Two innings later he won it walk-off style with a single that scored the fourth Tigers’ run.
It was an epic tale of a player rising from the ashes, falling back into the fire, only to rise again.
Alas the 2014 Detroit Tigers was no fairy tale.
After his two-hit performance on Opening Day Alex Gonzalez notched exactly three more hits, committed a slew of errors, and was released on April 18.
Next week, we will look at the seventh-best Detroit Tigers’ game of 2014. It involves some great base-running to pull out a late night West Coast game.