NOAH TRISTER, AP Baseball Writer
DETROIT (AP) — Alex Gonzalez drove in the winning run in his Detroit debut, lining a single to left off Greg Holland in the ninth inning that gave the Tigers a 4-3 opening-day victory over the Kansas City Royals on Monday.
Acquired by Detroit in late March following an injury to shortstop Jose Iglesias, Gonzalez made a costly error in Kansas City’s three-run fourth but made up for that with a tying triple in the seventh. He then singled with men on first and third in the ninth, giving Brad Ausmus a win in his first game since replacing Jim Leyland as the Tigers’ manager.
Joe Nathan (1-0) pitched a scoreless ninth in his first appearance for the Tigers.
Wade Davis (0-1) allowed a one-out walk to Alex Avila and a single to Nick Castellanos in the ninth. Holland — who had 47 saves in 50 chances last year — couldn’t escape the jam.
Salvador Perez had four hits for Kansas City, which has not won its opener since 2008 at Detroit.
Justin Verlander allowed three runs — two earned — in six innings and Victor Martinez homered for the Tigers, but their offense was quiet until the seventh. With Kansas City ahead 3-1, Austin Jackson hit a one-out triple and Avila drew a walk.
Aaron Crow replaced starter James Shields and struck out Castellanos, but the third strike was a wild pitch that allowed Jackson to score. Gonzalez followed with a triple to the gap in left-center.
Although there were still a few patches of snow in the Detroit area Monday morning, the game was played under a bright, sunny sky with temperatures in the 50s. With its recently re-sodded field, Comerica Park looked sharp — but the home team didn’t at first.
Right fielder Torii Hunter dropped a routine flyball in the second, and although Verlander pitched out of that jam, he couldn’t escape the fourth.
Salvador Perez tied it at 1 with a one-out RBI double off Verlander, and Lorenzo Cain slapped an RBI single through the hole into left field to put Kansas City ahead. After a two-out walk, Gonzalez bobbled Norichika Aoki’s slow grounder for an error that loaded the bases.
Verlander then walked Omar Infante to force in another run.
Verlander had surgery in January after injuring his groin, but he pitched 20 scoreless innings during spring training and earned his seventh straight opening day start. He allowed six hits, walked three and struck out two.
Shields allowed three runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings.
NOTES: Infante received a hand from the Detroit crowd when he was introduced with the Kansas City players before the game. He left the Tigers and signed with the Royals in the offseason. … The crowd of 45,068 was the second-largest in Comerica history. … It was the fourth four-hit game of Perez’s career.
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