DETROIT (AP)—The Detroit Tigers got their AL championship rings, then treated thousands of hardy fans to the same roller-coaster experience of last October.
“This lets us know that we can go ahead and hold teams off, and that’s one of the things we’re going to have to do over 162 games,” Granderson said.
Coming off their first pennant since 1984, the Tigers lost Monday’s opener 5-3 in 10 innings. Detroit chased A.J. Burnett (0-1) early in this one, and Granderson connected off Shaun Marcum for his first homer of the season, capping an eight-run third with a drive that landed on top of the wall in right-center, hitting the yellow home-run line, and bounced back onto the field.
Granderson also had an RBI triple in the seventh off Victor Zambrano and tied his career high with five RBIs.
“We just wanted to try and continue and add runs on knowing the game’s not over,” he said. “The game’s not over until we come off that field.”
Toronto closed with seven runs in the eighth off relievers Jason Grilli and Fernando Rodney but the potential tying run was stranded at third when Magglio Ordonez, who lost two fly balls in the swirling wind earlier in the inning, made a running catch of Troy Glaus’ drive to right-center.
“That was the play of the game,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “It was so tough out there. A lot of guys could have given up after having a little bit of tough inning. “Those conditions out there were just brutal.”
The wind became a factor in the late innings, holding up several pop flies and carrying a handful of seemingly easy outs out of the reach of Ordonez. The forecast for Thursday’s series finale calls for similar conditions.
“We’re not going to be able to beat everyone up,” Granderson said. “We’re going to have to be able to hold off some late-inning comebacks like today.”
Kenny Rogers drew the loudest ovation from fans when players received their championship rings in a pregame ceremony. The 42-year-old left-hander, who won all three of his starts during the 2006 postseason, had surgery Friday to remove a blood clot from his pitching shoulder. He’s not expected back until July.
While a record crowd of 44,297 came to the opener, just 24,881 fans turned out on a day with a 43-degree temperature, chilly wind and a threat of snow.
Burnett gave up six runs, five hits and four walks in two-plus innings, leaving after Detroit’s first six batters reached in the third. It was his shortest start since June 30, 2004, when he got three outs for Florida at Atlanta.
“It’s embarrassing,” he said. “This is the big leagues. It’s unacceptable. The only good thing about today was seeing the heart of this team. They almost got me off the hook.”
Pinch-hitter Jason Smith, acquired by Toronto in the winter meeting draft, had a three-run triple against Grilli in the eighth, his first at-bat with the Blue Jays. Vernon Wells added a two-run double against Rodney, Monday’s loser.
“We could’ve gone in the tank on a cold day,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “We hung around and gave ourselves a chance.”
Zambrano, coming back from elbow surgery, made his first big league appearance since a relief appearance for the New York Mets on Sept. 20, 2005.
Rogers, who flew from Texas, and four minor league players who were on last season’s active roster joined the Tigers for the ceremony. … DH Gary Sheffield singled in the fifth for his first hit with Detroit. … Gibbons kept 1B Lyle Overbay, a lefty, in the lineup against Robertson and said he may continue to bat him against left-handed pitchers. … Granderson had five RBIs last May 26 against Cleveland.