Granderson, Tigers slam past Jays
Lefty Robertson allows two runs on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings
DETROIT -- Nate Robertson had a feeling of what kind of day this would be when he stepped out of his house to take the trash to the curb.
"The garbage cans were two houses down," Robertson said.
Wednesday was already going to be memorable for the Tigers, who received their American League championship rings in a pregame ceremony. But hours later, when Sean Casey caught the last out of the 10-9 win over the Blue Jays, he wasn't pumping his fist to show off his jewelry. It became a game few Tigers will forget for a while.
The box score will show a high-scoring affair and a nine-run lead that Detroit nearly blew with the potential tying run 90 feet away. The outfield flags, blown outstretched for most of the game, told a different story.
"Today," Magglio Ordonez said, "was the first time I was scared in right field."
Many veteran Tigers have been around Detroit long enough to know that there's usually a price to pay for good weather on Opening Day. They just didn't figure they'd be paying it this soon. As harsh as the weather was at the start -- flurries started falling in the early innings, temperatures falling into the 30s by game's end -- the wind was as much or more of a factor. It was strong, with gusts near 50 mph, and it was unpredictable.
"Some balls were getting blown straight down," center field Curtis Granderson said, "and some balls were getting blown directly towards me or towards Craig [Monroe]. It was hard to figure out exactly what to do, even with a great infielder like [Placido] Polanco or [Carlos] Guillen -- you think they got it and it falls right in front of you."
The wind wasn't strong enough to knock down Granderson's first grand slam, which capped an eight-run third inning that abruptly knocked out Blue Jays starter A.J. Burnett (0-1). An Ordonez run in the fourth put the Tigers up 9-0.
It was quite a change for Robertson, who boasted the same 3.84 ERA as Kenny Rogers in 2006 but a 13-13 record thanks in part to the lowest run support of any AL pitcher with 200 innings. The Tigers scored as many runs Wednesday as they did in Robertson's final four starts of last regular season combined.
Robertson (1-0) didn't worry as much about the wind because he's more of a ground-ball pitcher. He had a shutout going until Aaron Hill's two-run homer ended his outing in the sixth. He was warm and toasty in the clubhouse for the crazy eighth.
"Being cold, that's one thing -- the wind factor was ridiculous," Robertson said.
What initially looked like a foul ball from Frank Thomas in the eighth inning ended up being a bloop single down the right-field line that Ordonez couldn't run down. It looked like an innocent hit, but it was a sign of what would quickly become a bad day for Ordonez and a tough-luck second inning of work for Jason Grilli.
Troy Glaus hit another blooper to right that fell. Alex Rios followed with a fly ball that fell in between a charging Ordonez and Polanco.
On a normal day, Ordonez said, "It was an easy fly ball."
After Gregg Zaun's one-out single loaded the bases, former Tiger-turned-Blue Jays pinch-hitter Jason Smith hit what might've been a line-drive single but what Ordonez thought should be a line-drive out. Instead, it put Toronto back in the game.
"I went hard and then I lost it," Ordonez said. "I tried to stop it."
The ball bounced past a sliding Ordonez and rolled towards the wall for a bases-clearing triple. Back-to-back doubles from Lyle Overbay and Vernon Wells put the potential tying run in scoring position, which became closer when Wells daringly stole third on Ivan Rodriguez with two outs and Glaus at the plate.
With a 3-1 count, Fernando Rodney went at Glaus, who hit what looked like a hard drive to right.
"It was the wrong time on the wrong day," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of the hit.
The Tigers actually thought it was a routine ball. That included Ordonez as he tried to camp under it. With the wind, that wasn't happening. Ordonez zig-zagged through the outfield until he ended up in Granderson's territory in right-center field.
"My last thought," Granderson said, "was [that] I may have to catch this ball."
Ordonez finally got under the ball and made the catch, somehow.
"I don't know how I caught that ball," Ordonez said. "No idea -- it kept going."
Nor does his manager.
"To me, Magglio made the play that saved the game on Glaus' ball," Jim Leyland said. "That was a heck of a play."
Once Todd Jones stranded two runners in the ninth for his first save, the Tigers could finally relax. They got their rings and their runs, but some will have more memories than that.
"Worst [game weather] ever," Ordonez said. "Cold and windy -- it was crazy."
It should be only slightly less crazy Thursday, when the wind gusts are only supposed to be around 40 mph, and the temperature colder.
"Really? I don't want to play tomorrow," Ordonez said with a smile.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.