Gonzalez singles in 9th to lift Tigers past Royals
DETROIT -- New season, new names and new hope.
It was Opening Day at Comerica Park on Monday and a couple of new faces played a key role in the Detroit Tigers' 4-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals.
There is fresh hope for the Royals even though they lost their sixth straight opener when new Tigers shortstop Alex Gonzalez lined a single to left past shortstop Alcides Escobar to score rookie pinch-running outfielder Tyler Collins from third base with one out in the bottom of the ninth.
"Our chances are as good as anybody's," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We've got a very, very good team."
"We have the personnel to win the World Series," said Brad Ausmus, who got a win in his first game as a major league manager. "I embrace the expectations. I'd rather have good players and the expectations that go with them."
Gonzalez, 37, was a late spring addition to the Detroit roster when flashy glove man Jose Iglesias was sidelined, possibly for the season, with stress fractures in both legs.
Gonzalez made an error but he also tripled home the tying run in the seventh, in addition to his game-winning hit on a 2-1 slider.
Catcher Alex Avila walked with one out in the ninth and Collins, making his first appearance above the Double-A level, raced to third on a single to center by rookie third baseman Nick Castellanos. Collins made the team as a platoon left fielder.
Closer Greg Holland was brought in and Gonzalez lined a slider through short to give new Detroit closer Joe Nathan a victory in his first appearance for the Tigers. Royals setup man Wade Davis took the loss.
"We had the option of bringing in (right-hander Kelvin) Herrera or Wade," Yost said of his choice of relievers. "Wade got through the eighth the way we wanted so I thought we'd see if he could get us through the ninth. We would have gone to Herrera in the 10th or Holland if we'd scored."
Right-hander James Shields had checked Detroit on four hits until center fielder Austin Jackson tripled with one out in the seventh to start a two-run rally. Avila walked and right-handed reliever Aaron Crow fanned Castellanos on three off-speed pitches, although his wild third-strike backup slider in the dirt got by Royals catcher Salvador Perez, who had four hits.
"It was a slider that was called down and away," Yost said of the pitch that let in the tying run. "It kind of backed up. That's one of the toughest pitches to block -- a backup slider."
Gonzalez tripled to score Avila and make it 3-3.
"I don't do that any more," Gonzalez said. "That's a lot of running. But it feels great."
Tigers starter Justin Verlander had not given up a run in 20 spring innings, plus his first three on Opening Day, but was nicked for three in the fourth.
Perez doubled in a run with one out and scored on a two-out single by center fielder Lorenzo Cain. A walk plus an error loaded the bases, then Verlander walked ex-teammate second baseman Omar Infante on a 3-1 pitch to force in the third run.
Detroit had taken a 1-0 lead on a solo home run by designated hitter Victor Martinez leading off the second inning.
"Only two things could have spoiled Opening Day," Ausmus said. "One was if we had lost. Two was if the sun wasn't out."
NOTES: Detroit 3B Miguel Cabrera is closing in on 2,000 hits. His double leading off the fourth inning was the 1,996th of his career. He turns 31 in April and just signed an eight-year extension. ... Kansas City 2B Omar Infante played his first game for his new team Monday against his old squad, Detroit. Infante, bothered by shoulder and elbow problems this spring, left the Tigers as a free agent to sign a four-year, $30.25 million deal with the Royals. ... Tigers RHP Bruce Rondon underwent Tommy John surgery Saturday on his right elbow. He will be out for the season. ... Royals C Salvador Perez's fourth-inning RBI double drove in the first run Kansas City had scored in its last three season-opening games. The Royals had been shut out in their previous two.