Nevertheless, the feisty Royals cost quite a few gamblers some money on Monday after they fought their way back from a 3-0 deficit to post a 5-4 win in 11 innings against Detroit in Trey Hillman's Major League Baseball managerial debut.
With two outs in the top of the 11th, Tony Pena blooped a single into shallow center field, which scored catcher John Buck with the winning run. It was Pena's lone hit in five at bats, and helped to make up for his three strikeouts at the plate.
The Royals were held in check through five innings by Verlander, who struck out six and allowed just four hits. But in the sixth inning, Royals third baseman Alex Gordon crushed a one-out offering from Verlander for a 394-foot two-run blast to cut the lead to 3-2. One inning later, Kansas City scored twice again to knock Verlander out of the game and take a 4-3 lead.
The Tigers' Carlos Guillen tied the game by hammering a solo home run to right field off of Brett Tomko in the bottom of the eighth. But right-hander Leo Nunez (1-0) looked very impressive by working two hitless innings and fanning three to earn the victory. It was the Royals' second-straight Opening Day win after topping Boston 7-1 last year.
Joakim Soria allowed a leadoff double in the bottom of the 11th, and had to work around a runner on third base with one out. But he got a huge strikeout of Edgar Renteria, and then was helped by some great glovework by Gordon on Placido Polanco's hard-hit grounder to third to earn his first save.
I like the Royals' fighting spirit, which is something the Detroit announcers kept bringing up. This team showed no signs of surrendering, which would have been easy to do against one of the top teams in baseball and being down 3-0.
But that, folks, is why you play the game, and the Royals are off to a good start to their 2008 season. Many bettors, however, aren't feeling so giddy about this Royals' win.
Note: Craig Brown of Royals Authority does such a great job with his coverage of Kansas City baseball, and if you haven't seen it yet, he took the time to compile the results of feedback to several questions about the 2008 season, which was provided by fans and bloggers alike, including yours truly. To check out his post, entitled Your Shot Has Been Called, click here. Thanks for the work, Craig.
Tony Pena Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images