The Detroit Tigers are finding out firsthand why many pundits view the Kansas City Royals as a playoff contender this season. But they're also showing Kansas City why they've been the team to beat in the AL Central three years running, and why that doesn't figure to change any time soon.
The Tigers moved to 2-0 in the competitive opening series on Wednesday afternoon with another dramatic walkoff victory, 2-1 in 10 innings. In doing so, Detroit started the season with consecutive walkoff victories for the first time in franchise history.
On Monday, veteran infielder Alex Gonzalez provided the difference with an RBI single in the ninth. On Wednesday, Ian Kinsler, one of the team's big offseason acquisitions coming over from the Texas Rangers in the Prince Fielder trade, capped his 3 for 5 afternoon with an RBI single of his own. In fact, Kinsler was Detroit's lone run producer, walloping his first home run to account for their earlier run.
Kinsler's walkoff knock got closer Joe Nathan off the hook after he blew his first save in 20 attempts at Comerica Park.
Nathan entered a perfect 19-for-19 as a visitor to the ballpark — the majority coming during his time with the Minnesota Twins — but Alex Gordon's bases loaded sacrifice fly in the ninth spoiled his first attempt as a Tiger. It also spoiled eight shutout innings from Max Scherzer, who during his Cy Young winning campaign in 2013 never threw more than seven scoreless in an outing.
In other words, the stars aligned about as well as they possibly could for Detroit, but it still took the extra effort to defeat their resilient division rivals.
Afterwards, Ian Kinsler talked about the importance of rallying to win the game and the impact of his game-winning hit.
''All I kept thinking about was picking up Max. He was so good all game and you don't want to waste that kind of performance,'' said Kinsler, who was acquired from Texas for Prince Fielder in a November trade. ''It was great for Joe, too. We know he's a great closer, but it is a lot easier to forget about a bad outing when your team wins the game.''
Manager Brad Ausmus also played key role in Detroit's victory, successfully challenging two calls.
The first came in the sixth inning when it appeared Detroit's Tyler Collins grounded into a 4-6-3 double play. A review overturned the call and allowed the inning to continue, though Detroit failed to take advantage. The second was of much greater importance as it killed a Kansas City tenth inning rally. Norichika Aoki was originally called safe at first, which would have given the Royals first and third with two outs. Instead, the inning ended harmlessly and opened the door for Detroit's walkoff.
It's an awkward walk, Ausmus said of his visits with the umpiring crew, but it was well worth it.
''It's almost awkward when you go out there,'' Ausmus said. ''Normally the manager would go out there to scream and yell, but it doesn't make sense to go out there and scream and yell if they know you have a challenge. In essence, I'm really just taking my time getting out there so we can get a determination from our video room as to whether we should use the challenge.''
The system worked for Detroit, much to the chagrin of Royals manager Ned Yost. But even Yost admitted the system is doing the job it was designed to do.
''That's exactly why the system is there - to get the call right,'' Royals manager Ned Yost said. ''Both calls went against us, but they were the right calls, so I don't have any problem with it.''
It's likely he has a much bigger problem with his team being 0-2 despite playing the Tigers tightly through two games. His squad's resolve will be tested on Thursday as they look to avoid the sweep.
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