Rogers strong, but Tigers stay winless
Left-hander retires first nine Royals; offense held to three hits
DETROIT -- Looking back on an Opening Day loss, Tigers manager Jim Leyland pointed out on Wednesday morning that his club needed to hit better to win close games like that in late or extra innings.
"We can't go too often four or five innings without scoring," he said before Wednesday's game. "With our kind of offense, we need to score if we're going to win those games."
By the afternoon, Brian Bannister made sure the Tigers weren't scoring at all. He needed just 85 pitches to shut down Detroit's vaunted offense for seven innings. As a result, the Tigers need another day to try for their first victory of the season, having been handed a 4-0 blanking by the upstart Royals at Comerica Park.
It wasn't just a lack of scoring, but a lack of almost any offense at all. After being unable to come up with the big hit they needed to beat the Royals on Opening Day, the Tigers couldn't come up with any hits at all this time aside from Edgar Renteria's three singles.
"When big league pitchers make big league pitches, they get people out," Leyland said later.
In this case, that included the people who hit for the Tigers.
It was not a reason for panic in Detroit, at least not in the part of town that includes the Tigers clubhouse. Still, on a day when Kenny Rogers pitched nearly as well as Bannister, it was a day that arguably got away from them.
"He pitched great and gave us a chance," second baseman Placido Polanco said of Rogers. "And we just didn't take it."
Rogers was a teammate of Bannister's father, Floyd, during the elder Bannister's final Major League season in Texas in 1992. Rogers was 27 then, the same age the younger Bannister is now. It was a reminder for Rogers of how long he has been pitching as he started his 20th Major League season. But on this day, the younger Bannister beat Rogers at his own game, getting ahead in counts and pitching to contact without trying to overthrow.
One by one, Bannister sent Tigers down swinging at his pitches. He threw first-pitch strikes to 15 of the 22 batters he faced, and went to three-ball counts against just four. He allowed just one ball in play out of the infield over the final 10 batters he faced. He held the mighty middle of Detroit's order -- Gary Sheffield, Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera -- to a combined 0-for-8 with two fly balls, four ground balls, a double play and a strikeout.
"He pitches very well," Rogers said. "I'm sure Floyd's very proud of him, because that was a good exhibition he put on out there today against a very good team."
The only Tiger with any success against him or the Royals in general Wednesday was Renteria, the fill-in leadoff hitter, who struck out with the potential tying run on third and one out in the 11th inning on Monday. He hit line-drive singles to right field to lead off the first inning and up the middle leading off in the fourth, then extended the game with a ground ball through the middle off closer Joakim Soria with two outs in the ninth.
Aside from Renteria, Soria struck out the side, sending the Tigers to their first 0-2 start since they lost their first nine games in 2003.
"I think that's one of those days," Renteria said. "[Bannister] pitched a great game. He didn't make mistakes. I always say if the pitcher makes a mistake, we're going to hit. If he doesn't make a mistake, we're not going to hit. That's baseball. The hardest thing to do is hit. No matter how a good lineup you have, if they don't make a mistake, there's no chance."
Rogers matched Bannister zero for zero through the first five innings, retiring the first nine batters in order through three. After scattering three runners on his second run through the Royals lineup, the third trip through the order got him.
Mark Grudzielanek, who had three singles on Opening Day, started Wednesday's decisive rally by lofting a soft line drive just over first baseman Carlos Guillen's outstretched glove and down the right-field line for a one-out double. After Alex Gordon advanced him to third, Jose Guillen reached for a changeup and kept it fair, lacing a liner into the left-field corner to break the scoreless game.
"He kind of went down and one-handed it," Rogers said. "Good piece of hitting by him."
That's when Rogers made the one pitch he'd like back. He left a first pitch over the middle to Billy Butler, who went 3-for-5 with three RBIs off Rogers last season.
"He's a guy you're supposed to be careful with a little bit," Rogers said. "So I was trying to go away with one and I missed middle-in, pretty bad. He crushed it. ...
"In those types of games, one run could be the game. But if I could've kept it to 1-0, it would've maybe made a big difference for our offense and us to come back."
Few, however, would figure a two-run deficit to be insurmountable for this lineup. Even after the Royals added two more runs in the eighth off of Zach Miner, it wouldn't automatically put the Tigers away like in years past.
Aside from Renteria, however, the Tigers were hitless. And they remain winless.
"Everybody's making a big deal out of how many great hitters we've got," left fielder Jacque Jones said. "There's going to be some days when the other guy's going to throw well and we're not going to be able to do anything."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.