DETROIT (AP)—Andrew Miller walked into Detroit’s clubhouse before his first major league start with a travel bag slung over his right shoulder, looking more like a paper boy than a big league pitcher.
Then, he pitched like a man and the Tigers gave him plenty of support.
Miller threw six scoreless innings and Detroit scored nine runs in the fifth inning of a 14-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night.
“It was a great experience,” said Miller, the sixth pick in the June 2006 draft. “It’s something I’ll never forget—first major league win, first major league start.”
The World Series rematch was a mismatch, and this time the Tigers came out on top.
Gary Sheffield and Magglio Ordonez homered early for the Tigers, who lost to St. Louis in five games last October. They went ahead 2-0 on Sheffield’s liner over the left-field wall in the first and had the game well in hand when—you guessed it—a Detroit pitcher made yet another error against St. Louis.
Jason Grilli threw away a pickoff attempt in the eighth, but by then Detroit held a huge lead. Tigers pitchers made a record five errors in the World Series last year.
The Tigers scored one run in the third inning on Ordonez’s homer and added two in the fourth before 13 batters came to the plate in the nine-run fifth— the most runs they’ve scored in an inning this season.
“That’s just one of those freak games,” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who was looking forward to the series ending before it began Friday because he’s facing one of his best friends, St. Louis manager Tony La Russa. “You can’t get excited when you have a freak game like this.”
In the series opener, Detroit surpassed the 11 total runs it scored in the 2006 World Series with a lineup that has been bolstered by the addition of Sheffield.
The Tigers have followed up their first AL championship since 1984 with a 25-16 start.
“It’s tough to think about last year right now,” World Series MVP David Eckstein said. “It’s been a difficult year with what happened off the field and because of how we’ve played on the field.”
La Russa has tried to steer his team by reminding the Cardinals that tragedy is part of life.
“You’re going to suffer and you have to deal with it,” he said.
La Russa gave Leyland his first job in the majors as third-base coach for the Chicago White Sox in 1982, and said his good friend has helped him get through the rough start.
“He’s the definition of a true friend,” La Russa said. “When you’re struggling personally or professionally, he calls with concern. When you’re doing OK, he calls, too.”
Leyland is confident St. Louis will turn its season around.
“They’ll right their ship,” he said. “There’s no doubt in my mind.”
Albert Pujols was 4-for-4 and hit his seventh homer, his first since April 28, in the ninth for St. Louis.
“Obviously, I didn’t do enough to help the team win,” he said.
Miller (1-0) was long gone by that point after allowing four hits and three walks—three days before turning 22.
“His ball appears to move real late and you’re not sure which way it’s going,” Leyland said.
Miller started in place of Jeremy Bonderman, on the disabled list with a blister on his right middle finger, after making eight relief appearances last year and pitching at Class-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie this season.
“If Bondo is all right, Miller will go back,” Leyland insisted.
Braden Looper (5-3) gave up a career-high seven runs and nine hits over four-plus innings. He allowed only a run in his two previous starts and entered the game among NL leaders with a 2.29 ERA.
“Basically, I made some mistakes over the middle of the plate,” Looper said. “Against a hitter like (Sheffield), you can’t make pitches like that. I just might as well have turned around and threw the ball over the fence myself.”
The Tigers, who set season highs for runs, runs in an inning and hits (18), chased Looper and his replacement in the fifth. Kelvin Jimenez got only one out and allowed seven runs, five hits and two walks.
“Obviously, they’re better than last year,” Pujols said.
Miller became the first Detroit pitcher to win his first major league start since Andy Van Hekken in 2002. … The Tigers hope LHP Mike Maroth, who was scratched from his start Thursday because of an illness and was still sick on Friday, will make his next start Tuesday. … St. Louis activated RHP Todd Wellemeyer, claimed off waivers Tuesday from Kansas City, and sent RHP Brian Falkenborg outright to Triple-A Memphis. … To make room for Miller, RHP Zach Miner was optioned to Triple-A Toledo after he gave up two runs—one earned— in 5 1-3 innings in a 2-1 loss at Boston on Thursday. … The game drew a sellout crowd of 40,816.