Wintry conditions wreaked havoc on the Detroit Tigers’ season-opening series at home. The weather won’t be a whole lot better as they take to the road, but at least they should be able to play.
More unpleasant, but hopefully playable weather awaits the Tigers in Kansas City on Friday, facing the team that helped cost them a division title last season when they meet the Royals to open a 10-game road trip.
Temperatures in the mid-20s, a wind chill dipping into single digits and a light snowfall resulted in Detroit’s home game against Toronto being postponed on Thursday. It was a bit colder than the previous day at Comerica Park when 40 mph gusts often made catching fly balls very difficult - right fielder Magglio Ordonez lost two in the swirling wind - as Detroit held off Toronto 10-9.
“That’s just not baseball,” said Tigers second baseman Placido Polanco, who spent most of last year’s postseason playing in a hooded sweat shirt.
The wind should be a bit calmer but not exactly tame on Friday at Kauffman Stadium, with the game-time temperature expected to fall under 40 and the wind chill in the 20s.
Detroit (1-1) should enjoy some warmer conditions over the weekend, with both games being played in the afternoon and plenty of sun in the forecast. Following those two contests, the Tigers open a three-game set at Baltimore before playing four games in Toronto.
Though the Tigers went on to reach the World Series last season - they received their AL championship rings on Wednesday - they blew a chance to win the AL Central by getting swept in a three-game set against Kansas City to close the regular season.
The Royals, coming off three straight 100-loss seasons and last-place finishes in the Central, opened this season by losing two of three games against Boston.
“They are going to turn things around over there, there’s no question about that,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “And that’s a good thing, because it upgrades this division even more. That’s good baseball.”
The Royals, though, totaled only two runs in their last two games against the Red Sox and their lineup now must face the reigning AL Rookie of the Year.
Justin Verlander is going to the mound for the first time since losing Game 6 of the World Series against St. Louis, capping a postseason in which he was 1-2 with a 5.82 ERA. He also won just three of his final nine regular-season starts, but finished with a 17-9 record and 3.63 ERA.
Thursday’s postponement pushed Verlander’s start back a day and while that could throw off his routine, the right-hander said it was worth it to avoid the bitterly cold weather.
“I know that conditions like this probably benefit me more than the hitters, but I still don’t want to go out there,” Verlander said.
The switch also presents him with an opponent which he has dominated. Verlander has faced the Royals three times and won them all, allowing two runs in 21 innings while striking out 16.
He’ll be countered by converted reliever Jorge De La Rosa, acquired by the Royals from Milwaukee in late July for infielder Tony Graffanino. He immediately joined the Kansas City rotation and made 10 starts, going 3-4 with a 5.18 ERA.
Control has been a problem for the left-hander, who turned 26 on Thursday, as he’s given up 106 walks in 144 major league innings.
De La Rosa could run into trouble right away if Detroit’s top two hitters continue their hot starts. Leadoff man Curtis Granderson is 4-for-9, including a grand slam and an RBI triple on Wednesday, and Polanco has gone 6-for-10 with two RBIs.
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