When the 1988 season opened, the Royals were still considered old guard in the AL West. The Oakland A's with Dave Stewart, Dennis Eckersley, Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco were the up and coming team, poised to take the pennant. But the Royals still harbored hopes.
They started 1988 with Bret Saberhagen on the mound. Sabes was coming off a strong '87 campaign, finishing with a 3.36 ERA, a walk rate of 1.9 BB/9, and a 136 ERA+. He also threw 15 complete games. He was in the midst of one of those strange stretches where he was good one season and not so good the next. And 1987 was a very good year for the then-23 year old starter.
The opposition was the Toronto Blue Jays, led by George Bell who was the reigning AL MVP.
George Brett, as usual, got the Opening Day festivities under way in the first, with a two run home run. That was just the appetizer. The day belonged to Bell.
Four times, Bell stepped in against Saberhagen. Three times Bell crushed a pitch for a home run. He was the first player in major league history to homer three times on Opening Day.
|Nelson Liriano 2B||4||0||0||0||0||0||.000||.000||14||8||-0.082||0.74||SH|
|Lloyd Moseby LF||4||1||0||0||0||0||.000||.000||14||11||-0.039||0.95|
|Tony Fernandez SS||4||0||0||0||0||1||.000||.000||17||10||-0.101||1.02|
|George Bell DH||4||3||3||4||0||0||.750||3.750||14||9||0.443||0.89||3·HR|
|Rance Mulliniks 3B||4||1||1||0||0||1||.250||.750||11||7||0.000||0.59||2B|
|Kelly Gruber 3B||0||0||0||0||0||0||0.000||0.00|
|Ernie Whitt C||4||0||1||0||0||1||.250||.500||13||9||0.016||0.64|
|Jesse Barfield RF||3||0||1||1||0||2||.333||.583||16||11||0.001||0.79||SF|
|Fred McGriff 1B||4||0||2||0||0||2||.500||1.250||18||12||0.007||0.62||2B|
|Sil Campusano CF||4||0||1||0||0||0||.250||.750||9||6||-0.016||0.72||2B|
|Jimmy Key P|
|David Wells P|
|Mark Eichhorn P|
|Tom Henke P|
Saberhagen's final line on the day wasn't too shabby. Except for those home runs. Yeah.
|Bret Saberhagen, L (0-1)||8||7||5||3||0||7||3||3.38||32||108||73||49||12||12||6||19||6||0||59|
Saberhagen finished with a 3.80 ERA and a 106 ERA+ in 1988. Maybe respectable numbers, but it was his second worst season of his Royals career. Only 1986 (remember that even-odd thing) was worse. The Royals finished third in the West, 19.5 games behind Oakland.Then, on April 4, 2005, it happened again. This time, it was Dimitri Young of the Tigers going yard two times against Jose Lima and once against Mike MacDougal. The Tigers won that contest, 11-2. So Royals.