Tigers take a nosedive

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DETROIT --- The Detroit Tigers wanted to evoke memories -- of 1968 and 1984, not 2003.

Center fielder Brandon Inge hit the turf after failing to make a diving catch during the winless Tigers' home opener. Detroit is 0-6.  File/Staff
File/Staff
Center fielder Brandon Inge hit the turf after failing to make a diving catch during the winless Tigers' home opener. Detroit is 0-6.

They added Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis during the off-season and boosted their payroll to $138.7 million, second only to the New York Yankees. And what did that get them?

An 0-6 start, the worst since they dropped their first nine games in 2003 en route to an AL-record 119 losses, that left the last-place Tigers four games back in the AL Central. They've been outscored 39-15 -- the fewest runs in the American League.

"Everyone in here is embarrassed," Ivan Rodriguez said. "We've got a day off, then we've all got to show up at Fenway Park (today) more ready to play. It has to be offense, defense and pitching. That's the only way we're going to win games."

Detroit's roster includes former All-Stars Gary Sheffield, Magglio Ordonez, Kenny Rogers, Carlos Guillen, Placido Polanco and Edgar Renteria. Still, the Tigers are the only major league team without a win. This from a club that entered the season as one of the favorites to win the World Series.

The busy winter got fans excited that Detroit could duplicate its championship seasons of 1968 and '84. But the Tigers opened with six consecutive losses -- all at home -- to Kansas City and the Chicago White Sox, the two worst teams in the AL Central last year.

"Frustrating might be a good word, but I think disappointing is more accurate," manager Jim Leyland said after Sunday's nationally televised 13-2 loss to Chicago. "Right now, we look like a bad ballclub. I know that people are expecting me to rant and rave, and that includes some of the players. But I don't buy that. This team has too many professionals to need that."

Leyland met with the team after Sunday's lopsided loss, and is quick to take most of the blame.

"We aren't prepared, and that's the manager's responsibility," he said. "This is the time when a team needs a manager."

Detroit's problems haven't been limited to one part of the team. The pitching has struggled, posting a 5.30 ERA and walking 27 batters, three shy of the big league high. Ace pitcher Justin Verlander allowed 13 runs in two starts, and Dontrelle Willis walked seven batters in his five-inning Tigers debut.

The offense has hit into 11 double plays, tied with Minnesota for the major league lead after the opening week.

"You don't win games because you have a good team on paper," said Guillen, who made a key error at first base Sunday against the White Sox. "You have to win them on the field, and right now, we can't even win a single game. We've got to win a game."


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