Boston’s Dwight Evans hit the first pitch of the season out of Tiger Stadium, but Detroit’s Kirk Gibson went him one better--collecting a pair of home runs as the Tigers upended the Red Sox, 6-5, Monday in front of an opening-day crowd of 51,437 at Detroit.
Gibson, who wrested $4.1 million from team owners in a bitter contract hassle, had four hits, including the two homers, and drove in five runs.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself to justify all I went through over the winter,” Gibson said. “The last day I can compare this with is the last game of the 1984 World Series. This doesn’t happen very often.”
Gibson’s winning homer came on a two-strike count in the seventh inning off reliever Sammy Stewart after Lou Whitaker had singled.
“I was trying to be aggressive like I was on the first two pitches,” Stewart said. “I wanted to throw another fastball inside like the first two, but I got it out over the plate, waist high, and he hit it.”
Boston Manager John McNamara was miffed with Stewart’s mistake.
“We hit the ball like we’re expected to,” McNamara said. “But, I didn’t like the 0-and-2 pitches they were hitting and my pitchers will hear about it Tuesday when we work out.
“It wasn’t just the pitches Gibson hit. Darrell Evans and Larry Herndon had 0-and-2 base hits, too.”
Jack Morris was shaky through the first seven innings for Detroit, giving up five runs--four of them homers--on 12 hits. But he got his sixth opening-day victory. Willie Hernandez earned the save.
Still, McNamara was impressed with Boston’s power.
“We do have some guys that can put the ball in the seats, don’t we?” he said. “How many times do you see the first pitch of the season hit for a home run?”
Evans drilled Morris’ first pitch into the center-field seats, and Jim Rice homered in the third. The Tigers got a run back in the bottom of the third when Darnell Coles singled, Whitaker walked and Gibson singled.
Detroit erased Boston’s 2-1 lead with three runs in the fourth. Darrell Evans started the rally with a single and scored on a triple by Dave Collins. Gibson then smashed the next pitch by starter Bruce Hurst high into the upper deck in center field.
“I tried to sneak a fastball by him,” Hurst said. “I wouldn’t back down. I felt I should throw my best pitch in that spot.
“I felt good mechanically, but Detroit has some good hitters.”
Cleveland 6, Baltimore 4--A record Baltimore baseball crowd of 52,292, including President Reagan, saw the Indians get a fine relief effort from Ernie Camacho and some timely hits from Mel Hall to beat the Orioles.
Last season, the Indians lost Hall to an auto accident and Camacho to a sore arm.
“I just threw the ball down the middle,” said Camacho, who saved the game for Ken Schrom. Attempting to come back after elbow surgery, Camacho pitched 1 innings of hitless relief. “I think my velocity is back.”
Hall, who started in place of injured right fielder Carmen Castillo, drove in two runs with one of three doubles off Mike Flanagan and a sacrifice fly.
Milwaukee 5, Chicago 3--The White Sox moved home plate eight feet back this season to cut down on the rooftop home runs in Comiskey Park, but that didn’t stop the Brewers’ Rob Deer.
“I don’t think I ever hit one that far,” said Deer, whose second-inning homer onto the left-field roof, coupled with a two-run shot by Ernest Riles, led the Brewers to the win in front of 42,265 fans at Chicago.
The shot came off loser Tom Seaver, who was making his record 16th opening day start. Seaver, who has been the subject of trade rumors all spring, wasn’t around after the game. He was on his way to California, where his mother is seriously ill, and he will not rejoin the club until Friday.
“He wasn’t sharp at all,” White Sox Manager Tony LaRussa said. “He didn’t have command of his breaking pitches.”