“We’ve got a long season to go,” said Kansas City starter James Shields, who was pulled in the seventh before the bullpen squandered the lead. “I’ll hand the ball to those guys any day of the week.”
Justin Verlander allowed three runs — two earned — in six innings and Victor Martinez homered for the Tigers, but their offense was quiet until the seventh. With Kansas City ahead 3-1, Austin Jackson hit a one-out triple and Avila drew a walk.
Aaron Crow replaced Shields and struck out Castellanos, but the third strike was a wild pitch that allowed Jackson to score. Gonzalez followed with a triple to the gap in left-center.
Although there were still a few patches of snow in the Detroit area Monday morning, the game was played under a bright, sunny sky with temperatures in the 50s. With its recently re-sodded field, Comerica Park looked sharp — but the home team didn’t at first.
Right fielder Torii Hunter dropped a routine flyball in the second, and although Verlander pitched out of that jam, he couldn’t escape the fourth.
Perez tied it at 1 with an RBI double off Verlander, and Lorenzo Cain slapped an RBI single through the hole into left field to put Kansas City ahead. After a two-out walk, Gonzalez bobbled Norichika Aoki’s slow grounder for an error that loaded the bases.
Verlander then walked Omar Infante to force in another run.
Verlander had surgery in January after injuring his groin, but he pitched 20 scoreless innings during spring training and earned his seventh straight opening day start. He allowed six hits, walked three and struck out two.
Shields allowed three runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings.
“The bottom of their order did a real good job today,” Shields said. “It’s definitely a tough loss — not the way we want to start our season off.”