DETROIT - At game time yesterday, snow was draped over the backs of the giant tigers that protect the entrances to Comerica Park. The entire upper deck was closed due to the amount of ice that had accumulated there.
It was all of 38 degrees at first pitch, and as the sun battled the cold, water cascaded down onto the lower level as the snow and ice above started to melt.
Meanwhile, out on the field, one team was playing baseball, and the other was making a futile attempt at it. The Detroit Tigers lost their seventh straight game to open the season, falling 9-6 to Kansas City. The Royals have started the season with a team-record six consecutive wins.
Rookie Jeremy Bonderman, who came north from spring training with high expectations, got shelled for the second time. He gave up five runs, walked four and threw a couple of wild pitches - all in less than three innings of work. He simply could not find the plate at times.
“I've never had a control problem,'' a bewildered Bonderman said. ``I usually don't walk very many guys, but today I did. In my first outing I only walked one person, but I gave myself a chance out there. This time I didn't. I got behind every batter. When you do that, you're going to throw a lot of pitches and be out of there really quick.''
The 20-year-old Bonderman, who jumped from Single-A to the majors, got nicked for a run in the first when he walked two and threw the wild pitches. He wiggled out of trouble in the second thanks to a double play, but allowed a couple of hits and a sacrifice fly for another run in the third, then loaded the bases before giving way to Wilfredo Ledezma.
Dee Brown smoked the third pitch from Ledezma into the seats in right-center for a grand slam and a 6-0 Kansas City lead.
“Both Jeremy and Ledezma had trouble getting first-pitch strikes,'' Detroit manager Alan Trammell said. ``At this level - at any level - that's not going to do it.''
But Trammell indicated he is not ready to give up on his young pitcher. Bonderman will get more starts in Detroit.
``Absolutely, he'll get more chances at the major league level,” Trammell said. ``We'll talk about it a little bit later on with our coaches. I think it might be something of a confidence issue. Maybe he's giving hitters too much credit.''
The Tigers got a run back in the bottom of the third when Bobby Higginson singled, scoring Gene Kingsale. The Royals stretched the lead to 9-1 in the fifth when Brent Mayne ripped a three-run homer off Ledezma.
Detroit batted around and loaded the bases for the first time this season in a five-run sixth inning. Higginson singled, former Mud Hen Omar Infante tripled to the gap in left-center to score him, and Carlos Pena sacrificed Infante home.
After a Dmitri Young base hit, Jason Grimsley walked the bases loaded, and Ramon Santiago worked the count full, fouled off three pitches, then doubled in three runs.
Santiago thought the Tigers, who had scored just six runs in their first six games, accomplished something, despite logging another defeat.
“This is the start of something big for our offense,” he said. “We had a pretty good day [at the plate] today.”
The folly continued for the Tigers, however, as Higginson, who had two hits and three walks, got picked off in the seventh, and then ended the game by allowing himself to get hit by a Pena single as it passed through the infield.
“That shouldn't happen,” Trammell said, stating the painfully obvious. The rookie manager hoped that since the Tigers showed some spark around the plate, there was a bit of a silver lining in the difficult day.
``There's no sense beating yourself up all the time,'' he said. ``We're 0-7 and we're not doing a whole lot of things well. When we do something well, we have to look on it as a positive.''
NOTES: In order to play yesterday's game, workers at Comerica Park had to put in 1,400 man hours removing 950 cubic yards of snow. ...