Royals catcher Salvador Perez went 4-4 with 2 doubles in the team's opener. Photo by Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Royals drop opener to Detroit Tigers 4-3

Alex Gonzalez completed the Detroit Tigers’ Opening Day comeback against the Kansas City Royals with a ninth inning single off Royals Closer Greg Holland to win 4-3 in Detroit. Royals reliever Wade Davis (0-1) took the loss. Tigers closer Joe Nathan (1-0) was credited with the win. A sell-out crowd of 45,068 at Comerica Park was treated to ninth inning heroics from the bottom of the Tigers lineup.

The Royals took control early. Salvador Perez hit his second double in as many at bats to drive in Alex Gordon from first base in the top of the fourth inning to tie the game 1-1. Gordon, who reached with an 8-pitch walk, started the inning which brought nine batters to the plate. After Mike Moustakas moved Perez to third on a dribbler to the mound, Lorenzo Cain pulled Tigers starter Justin Verlander‘s offering between short and third to drive in Perez, making it 2-1.

Alcides Escobar drew a walk to put runners on first and second before Nori Aoki bounced a grounder to Tigers shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who bobbled it leaving all runners safe and bases loaded. Infante drew a bases loaded walk off Verlander to increase the lead to 3-1. It was Verlander’s 70th pitch of the game. Eric Hosmer left the bases loaded by popping out to shortstop.

The Royals squandered opportunities in the first and second innings. In the first, Eric Hosmer doubled to center but Verlander came back from a 3-0 count to get Billy Butler to ground out to second to end the frame. In the second inning, Perez hit a one-out double and held at second when Tori Hunter dropped a routine fly ball from Moustakas. Cain grounded out to third, moving runners up a base before Escobar popped to the catcher.
In the bottom of the second, Victor Martinez put the Tigers up 1-0 with a solid pull shot over the right field wall.

In the bottom of the fourth, Miguel Cabrera led off the inning with a ringing double off the left field wall. Martinez moved Cabrera to third with a ground out to short, after nearly missing his second home run in as many at bats, driving a Shields offering just to the right of the right field foul pole. Shields then got Austin Jackson looking and Alex Avila swinging to get out of the inning.
Verlander gave way to Evan Reed to begin the seventh inning after throwing 105 pitches through six. Meanwhile, Shields was cruising through the middle innings. When he retired Cabrera to end the sixth, that was the 13th out of 15th batters in that span he set down. One of those hits quickly turned into an out. Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos led off the bottom of the fifth with a single to left and tested Gordon’s arm, unsuccessfully, as the Gold Glove left-fielder cut him down trying to stretch a single into a double.

The run ended with 14 out of 16 batters put down when Austin Jackson tripled with one out in the seventh. Shields then walked Alex Avila on 4 pitches before Manager Ned Yost replaced him with right-hander Aaron Crow.
Crow struck out Castellanos, but Jackson scored on a wild pitch. Gonzalez then rifled a hanging breaking ball by Crow for a triple, scoring Avila and tying the score 3-3. Rajai Davis worked the count full before grounding out to Escobar to end the inning.

Wade Davis retired the first two batters he faced in the eighth, walked Cabrera on a full count, then got Martinez to fly to left to end the inning.
With one out in the ninth, Avila Avila drew a walk off Wade Davis. Castellano then lined a single to center, putting runners on first and third.
Holland replaced Davis and surrendered the game-winning single to Gonzalez.

Notables: Salvador Perez went 4-4 with 2 doubles, a run scored and an RBI. Nori Aoki struck out twice. He struck out only 40 times in 597 at bats in 2013. The 1-2 top-of-the-order punch of Aoki and Omar Infante went 0-9 with a walk and an RBI. The Tigers committed 2 errors in the game. Tigers leadoff man Ian Kinsler went 0-4 in his Tiger’s debut.

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