Tigers Kick Season Off Right

The next era in Tiger baseball got started on the right foot on Monday afternoon. The Jim Leyland era officially started with a 3-1 victory over the Royals in Kansas City, as the Tigers moved into a tie for first place in the AL Central, at least for a day.

Kenny Rogers took the mound for the Tigers as the oldest pitcher to ever start Opening Day for the Tigers, and he didn't disappoint in his debut as a Tiger. Rogers made it through six innings, giving up just one run on three hits. Rogers also struck out five Royals as he earned his first victory of the year.

The Tiger offense wasn't spectacular, as Scott Elarton kept the Tigers away from putting together the big inning that could have been possible with one or two key hits with runners in scoring position. Elarton gave up two runs in 5 2/3 innings before handing the game over to the bullpen.

Chris Shelton was the only Tiger hitter that had any real success against Elarton – but it was more than just mild success. Shelton got three hits off Elarton; a bloop single in the second inning, and then solo home runs in both the fourth and the sixth innings.

The two solo blasts gave the Tigers a one run lead when Kenny Rogers left the game, at which point, it was time to turn the game over to the bullpen; a group that was left largely ignored in the offseason with the exception of adding closer Todd Jones (after the team traded two closers last season and lost a third to a career-ending injury). Of course, Jones's injury meant that the Tigers were back to Fernando Rodney as the closer, leaving the setup role to someone else.

On Monday, that someone else was 21-year old rookie Joel Zumaya. Zumaya, making his major league debut, pitched two shutout innings of relief, including escaping runners on first and second in the seventh inning. In Zumaya's two innings, he gave up one hit, walked one (the first batter he faced) and struck out three in the process of wowing every Tiger fan watching on TV with his high 90's fastball and knee buckling curve.

It was in between these two innings that Carlos Guillen came to the plate and added an insurance run for the pitchers, taking an Andy Sisco pitch deep to straight-away centerfield. Guillen finished 2-for-3 including a walk.

With a two run lead, Fernando Rodney, the team's closer for however long Jones is sidelined, came on and took care of business. His 1-2-3 inning on 13 pitches closed things out, earning Rodney his first save and the Tigers their first win of the season.

Besides Guillen and Shelton, Brandon Inge had a pair of hits for the Tigers.

The two teams will take Tuesday off, but on Wednesday they'll be back in action at 2:10pm. Jeremy Bonderman will face former Twin Joe Mays for the Royals.

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