Not the analysts. Not the executives who put together the mighty Detroit Tigers. Not the 32,735 fans in attendance at Comerica Park on Thursday. Probably not even the Royals themselves.
Yet there it was: a three-game sweep over the Tigers, topped off by a 4-1 Royals victory featuring seven solid innings from Zack Greinke and home runs by Alex Gordon and Mark Teahen.
Imagine, sitting all alone atop the American League Central standings: Kansas City 3-0.
"We'll take that," manager Trey Hillman said. "It's a challenge now to go out and play as consistently as we can."
Imagine, the Royals in first place.
"We're going to get used to it," Gordon said.
This is only the second time the Royals have opened the season with a three-game sweep on the road. The first time? Also in Detroit, in 1977 at Tiger Stadium. That Royals club, by the way, went on to win 102 games and the division title.
Conversely, the 2008 Tigers stand at 0-3.
"We all knew they were going to be good," Gordon said. "They've got talent. We're going to celebrate the sweep and go from there."
In seven innings, Greinke gave up one run, on a solo homer from Brandon Inge. Reliever Ramon Ramirez survived two hits to pitch a scoreless eighth and closer Joakim Soria worked a perfect ninth to finish off a win for the third game in a row.
Gordon, who had awakened the Royals' offense on Opening Day with a two-run homer, got them under way in this game in a similar fashion. He had struck out three times on Wednesday.
"After a day like that, you come in and want to do something," Gordon said.
Jeremy Bonderman had disposed of the Royals with ease during the first three innings. In the fourth, however, Mark Grudzielanek punched a single to right to open the inning before Gordon skied a 2-1 pitch into the left-center-field seats for a two-run homer. The blast was measured at 410 feet.
Gordon, who has struggled, striking out five times in nine other trips to the plate, has his second hit of the season and both have been home runs.
"We knew he was working on his changeup," Gordon said. "He left a changeup up and I was able to get it up into the wind."
Teahen got into the home-run spirit in the sixth inning against Bonderman, sending a 1-1 pitch soaring into the right-field bullpen for a 3-0 lead. His first homer of the season came with two out and no one on base.
Gordon came close to another homer, off reliever Bobby Seay in the seventh, but Marcus Thames caught the just-short drive as he crashed into the left-field fence. Joey Gathright, on with a single, then swiped second base before zipping home on a Jose Guillen single to left field.
The Tigers were playing without slugger Miguel Cabrera, who was sitting with a sore left quadriceps. He'd had one hit, a home run, in eight at-bats, as the Tigers lost the first two games of the series.
Shut out on Wednesday, the Tigers' scoreless streak reached 18 innings when Greinke survived Magglio Ordonez's booming leadoff double in the sixth by getting three outs in a row without a ball leaving the infield.
"About the sixth inning, I told [catcher John] Buck, 'This isn't going to happen again for a long time. I'll bet they don't go that long without scoring again all season,'" Greinke said.
Sure enough, the shutout ended abruptly with one out in the seventh, as Inge pounded a 3-1 pitch from Greinke over the left-field fence.
That was all the Tigers would get, however, on a day in which they went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
"It's not like we ran over the Detroit Tigers," Hillman said. "We won the games. We had timely hitting and solid pitching."
A three-game sweep over the Tigers and a solitary first-place berth. Who would have have imagined that?
"We would," Gathright said firmly. "I told you, we can play, we can compete. Now we'll see what happens."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less