Texas 5, Detroit 3
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP)—Texas’ Brad Wilkerson knows why he’s struck out in 14 of 32 at-bats this season. He’s simply swinging at too many bad pitches.
He sure picked a good one with the game on the line Sunday.
Wilkerson hit an 0-2 hanging curveball from Kenny Rogers off the wall in right-center field, breaking a sixth-inning tie with a two-run double and sending the Rangers past Detroit 5-3 for the Tigers’ first loss this season.
Wilkerson had struck out in six of his previous seven at-bats, including three straight against Rogers in this game, before finally putting the ball in play with runners on the corners with one out and the score tied 3-3. Despite the big hit, he struck out again in the eighth, making him 1-for-5 with four Ks on the day.
“I’m swinging at everything,” Wilkerson said. “It’s a matter of calming down, getting relaxed and looking for a pitch in the strike zone. … Once I get more comfortable, more relaxed at the plate, I’m going to see the ball in the strike zone and have a better chance to hit it.”
Although Wilkerson has a shoulder injury that forces him to strap on a huge ice pack after every game and he’s adjusting to the AL after five seasons in the NL, he’s not making any excuses for his .188 start as Texas’ new leadoff hitter.
“It’s about concentration, about doing the right things up there and being mentally prepared for each at-bat,” said Wilkerson, who was acquired in the trade that sent Alfonso Soriano to Washington. “It’s early in the season. We’ll see what happens. I’m just going to work as hard as I can to get my swing where it needs to be to improve and help this team win ballgames.”
Rogers, who refused to talk to most members of the Texas media during a contentious 2005 season with the Rangers, kept it up after this game. He sent away a local-based Associated Press writer, insisting on speaking only to Tigers beat writers.
When told the AP is a national media outlet, Rogers said: “It doesn’t matter. See ya.”
The left-hander wasted a 2-0 lead by giving up three runs in the third. Detroit came right back and tied it in the fourth, but Rogers (1-1) blew it by allowing hits to the final three batters he faced.
“Kenny gave us a shot,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “We didn’t do anything wrong. They just played a little better than we did.”
Rogers allowed five runs and 12 hits with five strikeouts and a walk over 5 1-3 innings. When introduced in the first inning, he was greeted with a mixture of boos and cheers, with the boos slightly louder.
Vicente Padilla (2-0) wasn’t as sharp as he’d been in his Texas debut, but was able to get enough outs to avoid the fourth 1-6 start in franchise history. He gave up three runs and seven hits over six innings, walking three and striking out three. Acquired from Philadelphia during the winter for the since-released Ricardo Rodriguez, Padilla has both of the Rangers’ wins thus far.
“Padilla was effectively wild,” Leyland said.
It was good enough that Texas manager Buck Showalter finished the game exactly the way he wants for the first time this season, going with Antonio Alfonseca in the seventh, Akinori Otsuka in the eighth and Francisco Cordero in the ninth. They combined to allow only one hit, striking out four, with Cordero retiring the side in order for his first save.
Gerald Laird and Ian Kinsler, the last two hitters in the Rangers’ lineup, each had two hits and scored twice. They both singled in the sixth, setting up Wilkerson’s go-ahead hit. Michael Young, Mark Teixeira and Kevin Mench also had two hits.
Despite the loss, Detroit still heads into its home opener Monday against the Chicago White Sox off to a great start.
“It’s just one loss,” said Craig Monroe, who had a pair of doubles and scored twice. “We’re 5-1. We feel great about going home.”
Chris Shelton had been powering the Tigers, but he slowed Sunday, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, dropping his average from .700 to .583. Curtis Granderson went 2-for-2 with two walks, driving in a run and scoring once.
The Tigers haven’t made an error, their longest clean streak to open a season since 1994. … Texas avoided its first four-game sweep at home by Detroit. … This was the Tigers’ final game in Arlington this season. The teams don’t meet again until Aug. 17-20 and Sept. 12-13, both series at Detroit. … Tigers starters won the team’s first five games, something last done by the club in 1911, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. It last happened in the majors by the 1999 Boston Red Sox.