Gonzalez, Tigers open season with late rally over Royals

Detroit, MI ( - Alex Gonzalez tied the game with an RBI triple in the seventh and then won it with a run-scoring single in the ninth, as the Detroit Tigers rallied for a 4-3 win over the Kansas City Royals on Opening Day at Comerica Park.

With the game tied 3-3 in the home half of the ninth, Alex Avila worked a one- out walk off Wade Davis (0-1) before being replaced by pinch-runner Tyler Collins making his major league debut.

Collins then moved to third on Nick Castellanos' single to right-center field before Kansas City closer Greg Holland entered to face Gonzalez, who endeared himself to the Detroit faithful by ripping a single to left to plate Collins for the deciding run.

Gonzalez has been with the Tigers for just seven days, as Detroit acquired the 37-year-old veteran from Baltimore after starting shortstop Jose Iglesias was diagnosed with stress fractures in both legs.

Joe Nathan (1-0), who signed with the Tigers as a free agent in the offseason, spun a 1-2-3 top of the ninth to pick up the victory. Justin Verlander made his seventh straight Opening Day start for Detroit and surrendered three runs -- two earned -- on six hits and three walks over six frames.

Victor Martinez stroked a solo home run for the defending AL Central champion Tigers, who made a winner out of Brad Ausmus in his managerial debut. Ausmus took the reins this offseason from Jim Leyland, who retired after leading the Tigers to their third straight ALCS appearance.

"It's always exciting on Opening Day but certainly my first win as a manager will be something I don't forget," Ausmus said. "I'm also not the type of person to get wrapped too much up into it. We have 161 games to go and we still have one goal and that's six months away hopefully."

Salvador Perez went 4-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored for the Royals, who finished the 2013 season with their highest win total (86) since 1989, despite missing the playoffs for the 28th straight season.

Kansas City starter James Shields was charged for three runs on five hits over 6 1/3 innings.

Shields stifled Detroit's potent lineup for much of the day, allowing just one run -- Martinez's solo blast in the second -- over six frames before running into trouble in the seventh.

The Royals, meanwhile, provided their starter with some run support in the fourth, as Alex Gordon worked a one-out walk and scored when Perez followed with a double into the left-field corner.

Lorenzo Cain plated Perez with a single to left two batters later before a walk, followed by a fielding error on Gonzalez, loaded the bases for former Tiger Omar Infante, who walked on five pitches to push the lead to 3-0.

Reigning two-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera led off the home half of the fourth with a double, but the Tigers failed to move another runner into scoring position until Austin Jackson's one-out triple in the seventh.

Avila then worked a free pass to end Shields' outing, as Aaron Crow entered from the bullpen and fanned Castellanos on three pitches. However, Crow's third strike sailed to the backstop, allowing Jackson to score and Castellanos to reach first safely.

"(Our relievers) are still good. I'll hand the ball off to those guys any day of the week," Shields said of the bullpen giving up the tying runs.

Two pitches later, Gonzalez sliced a triple into the gap in left-center field, plating Avila from second to tie the game at 3-3.

Game Notes

Gonzalez was acquired from the Orioles on March 24 in exchange for infielder Steve Lombardozzi ... Kansas City finished last year with the AL's best record in the second half of the season (43-27) ... Infante spent last season in Detroit before signing with the Royals as a free agent ... Detroit second baseman Ian Kinsler, who was acquired from Texas for Prince Fielder, went 0- for-4 in his Tigers debut ... The Royals have lost six straight Opening Day games ... Cabrera finished 1-for-3 with a double ... The Tigers lost the season series to the Royals last year, 10-9 ... Kansas City went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base.