The Royals kicked off the season with a 7-4 win over the Tigers in Detroit, thanks to big days from Amos Otis and John Mayberry.
Otis started the season in style, cranking a two-run home run off Detroit starter Dave Roberts in the first inning. George Brett singled to start the game and took second on a groundout before Otis lined one off the facing of the upper deck in left field.
But Detroit tied it up almost immediately, as Royals starter Paul Splittorff walked Ron LeFlore to start the bottom of the first. A Tito Fuentes double and Rusty Staub single tied the game at 2-2 before Splittorff escaped the jam.
Kansas City took the lead in the fourth, with singles by Joe Zdeb and Buck Martinez and a Freddie Patek groundout producing a run. Then the Royals broke the game open in the fifth. With one out, Hal McRae singled and Otis doubled. Detroit native Mayberry got a fly ball up in the wind heading to right field, and it got just enough help to carry into the upper deck–Tiger Stadium’s upper deck overhang possibly kept Ben Oglivie from making the catch. Instead, the Royals had a 6-2 lead.
The Tigers mounted a rally in the seventh. Splittorff issued walks to Oglivie and Milt May to start the inning. Relief pitcher Doug Bird entered the game and picked up a strikeout, but singles by Phil Mankowski and LeFlore brought in two runs and meant the tying runs were on base. But Bird got Fuentes and Staub to end the inning.
The Royals added an insurance run in the ninth, as Brett walked with one out. Singles by McRae and Otis brought him around. Mark Littell, who had recorded the final out in the eighth, pitched a perfect ninth to pick up the save.
Box score and play-by-play:
1977 baseball news: The first American League game held in Canada was a success for the home team, as the Toronto Blue Jays won the first game in franchise history, a 9-5 win over the Chicago White Sox at Exhibition Stadium. Doug Ault was the hero for the expansion team, as he belted two home runs and drove in four runs. A crowd of 44,649 braved a pregame snowfall, temperatures near freezing, and a lack of beer sales; the Ontario government had refused to allow alcohol sales at the games.
Today’s birthdays: Dave Cripe (1951), Ricky Bones (1969), Brett Tomko (1973), Joel Payamps (1994)