By: Dan Dickerson
On a day you couldn’t have drawn up any better, with Comerica Park filled to overflowing, the newest Tiger delivered a perfect ending to an incredible Opening Day. Aelx Gonzalez’ line drive single past a drawn-in Kansas City infield in the bottom of the ninth brought home pinch-runner Tyler Collins, and delivered a 4-3 win for the Tigers.
The game-winning hit capped quite a day for the 37 year old veteran shortstop, picked up in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles just one week ago. After handling two routine groundballs to start the game, Gonzalez was charged with an error when he bobbled a groundball in the hole in the third inning – leading to an unearned run in the Royals’ three run inning. But that just set up the big finish: in the 7th inning, Gonzalez robbed Billy Butler of a hit with a diving stop to his right. In the bottom of the 7th, Gonzalez – facing reliever Aaron Crow – tripled up the gap in left-center to score Alex Avila, and tie the game, 3-3. In the bottom of the 9th, Avila walked with one out – and left the game for pinch-runner Tyler Collins, who was making his major league debut. Nick Castellanos – playing in his first Opening Day game – then singled to right-center to get Collins to third. Royals manager Ned Yost then called on closer Greg Holland to try to get out of the jam, but on a 2-1 pitch, Gonzalez ripped a single into left to win the game.
Verlander started for the Tigers, and had to fight through six innings. At times his command left him, but he made some big pitches with men on base, and ended up giving up just two earned runs through six innings of work. Evan Reed, Al Alburquerque and Joe Nathan each worked a scoreless inning apiece after Verlander’s day was done – Nathan got the win.
A crowd of 45,068 filled Comerica Park to capacity – it was the largest Opening Day Crowd in the ballpark’s 15 year history, and 2nd-largest crowd since the ballpark opened in 2000.
The Tigers series with the Royals continues on Wednesday afternoon – Max Scherzer starts for the Tigers, Jason Vargas for the Royals.
Listen below to Alex Gonzalez’s RBI triple
Listen below to Alex Gonzalez’s walk off winner