DETROIT — Dmitri Young got to the top step of the dugout Monday, pivoted and tipped his helmet to a roaring crowd after becoming just the third player to hit three homers on Opening Day.
“I’ve had a curtain call, but nothing like that,” Young said. “That was incredible.”
Young went 4 for 4 and matched a career high with five RBIs, and Jeremy Bonderman won as the youngest Opening Day starter since 1986 to lead the Detroit Tigers over the Kansas City Royals 11-2.
Two years after losing an A.L.-record 119 games, the Tigers backed up what Young said last month when he boldly proclaimed: “We’re the Tigers — not the kittens.” It was, however, just the first of 162 games, and the victory came against a team expected to be among baseball’s worst.
Detroit’s performance created a frenzied atmosphere before a Comerica Park-record crowd of 44,105 on a sunny day with temperatures in the 60s.
“I don’t know if I could’ve written a better script,” Tigers manager Alan Trammell said.
Young’s home run in the second inning put Detroit ahead 1-0. He hit a two-run homer in the third for a 5-0 lead and added another two-run shot in the eighth. The designated hitter also had a single and was hit by a pitch.
“That was a great day,” Kansas City manager Tony Pena said. “Good for him. Bad for us.”
Toronto’s George Bell hit three homers against the Royals on Opening Day in 1988 and Tuffy Rhodes of the Chicago Cubs had three against the New York Mets in 1994. Those two games also were played on April 4.
“It was just one of those unconscious days,” said Young, who has hit two homers in a game six times.
He did not hit a home run in 46 at-bats during spring training.
“You never see those stats on the back of a bubble gum card,” Young said with a wide smile.
Young did his best to deflect attention to the rest of his teammates, especially Bonderman, whom he called “a young Roger Clemens.”
Bonderman pumped his fist and walked off the mound with a confident strut after ending the second inning with his fifth strikeout. He finished with seven strikeouts in seven innings and gave up one run and six hits.
The 22-year-old right-hander became the youngest pitcher to start an opener since the New York Mets’ Dwight Gooden did it at the age of 21 in 1986. No Tiger that young had started an opener since 20-year-old Josh Billings in 1928.
Bonderman shrugged off any questions about his age.
“They gave me the opportunity and I took advantage of it,” he said.
The overflow crowd at the 5-year-old ballpark — with uncounted fans perched atop a parking garage across the street — watched a team hoping to contend in the A.L. Central. Magglio Ordonez’s bat and an improved bullpen, led by free-agent acquisition Troy Percival, are expected to boost Detroit’s chances.
Ordonez, the only player given a standing ovation before his first at-bat, went 0 for 4 with a walk and a run, and Percival had one strikeout in the ninth.
“We’re going to put a lot of pressure on teams with our offense,” Percival said.
Kansas City’s Jose Lima gave up five runs and six hits over three innings in his first Opening Day start, and the 200th of his career. Three of the hits were homers, including one by Brandon Inge.
“It’s too quiet in here,” Lima said. “No one died. We still have 161 games left.”
The Royals — who lost a 104 games last season — returned just eight players from their 2004 Opening Day roster.
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