Surprise, surprise: Royals play another white-knuckler with Tigers, only to lose this time
This is exactly what we expected from the Tigers and Royals, two teams that played 10 one-run games last season, and two teams that have had 45 of their last 55 games decided by two runs or less.
The Royals won the season series from Detroit last year 10-9, mainly because they excelled in the one-run games, where they went 7-3.
But the 2014 season got off like so many in recent memory — a 4-3 loss in Motown. The Royals now have lost six straight season openers.
— Big Sal. Sal Perez was incredible offensively, slamming four hard-hit balls, including two doubles. Every ball Perez hit was a rope. Unfortunately, his teammates didn’t follow his lead.
— Big Game James. James Shields did his job, working into the seventh inning and holding the Tigers in check, leaving with a 3-1 lead. Shields was sensational in the bottom of the fourth. After Miguel Cabrera led off with a double, Shields got a groundout, which moved Cabrera to third, and then two huge strikeouts of Austin Jackson and Alex Avila.
— The Royals’ defense. Alex Gordon made a great throw to gun down Tigers rookie Nick Castellanos, who — and what were you thinking, Nick? — was trying to stretch a single into a double. Gordon has 54 assists the last three years (along with three Gold Gloves), most in the majors. Very silly move by the rookie. Center fielder Lorenzo Cain made two nice grabs after slight misreads, and first baseman Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas each turned in diving plays for outs.
— RISP. The Royals were just 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position — a nasty trend that suffocated them in 2013. The Royals, who had several chances to bust this one open, again couldn’t get the big hit.
— Mike Moustakas. Granted, the Tigers pretty much pitched Moose inside all afternoon, but at least for one game, he looked like the hitter we saw all last year — pull-happy and impatient. He went 0 for 4, and even got the green light on a 3-and-0 pitch as skipper Ned Yost is obviously trying to show confidence in him. Moose went after the 3-0 pitch and flied out harmlessly. The Tigers employed the shift for Moose’s last three at-bats, and he looked confused. Guess the Tigers don’t believe the offseason talk that Moose is learning to hit to all fields.
— TOP OF THE ORDER. Yes, it was the bullpen that let this one get away, but offensively, the Royals got nothing from their new top of the order. Leadoff man Norichika Aoki went 0 for 5 and looked bad doing it, striking out twice. No. 2 hitter Omar Infante went 0 for 4, though he did draw a bases-loaded walk.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email firstname.lastname@example.org.