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03/31/08 8:22 PM ET

Gordon does it all on Opening Day

Third baseman homers, makes game-saving play to end game

DETROIT -- Third baseman Alex Gordon was a real flash with both his bat and his glove in Monday's season opener.

Gordon crashed a two-run homer in the sixth inning to get the Royals' scoring started. Then he made a diving play in the 11th inning to preserve the 5-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers.

With Clete Thomas on third base and two outs in the 11th, Gordon threw himself into the dirt, grabbed Placido Polanco's sharp grounder, jumped up and threw to Ross Gload for the game-ending out.

"With a man on third and two out, you're diving right away. I knew it was close. I was just trying to get the ball and make a good play," Gordon said.

"When I dove, I thought I had a chance. On a diving play, it's all instincts, and you get up and throw it and it's snap of the finger."

Gordon argued that closer Joakim Soria's strikeout of Edgar Renteria for the second out was even bigger.

No hit was much bigger than Gordon's long ball.

The Royals were in a 3-0 hole against Tigers ace Justin Verlander in the sixth inning with two outs and one on. On a 3-1 pitch, Gordon deposited a drive into the right-field stands.

"It's baseball," Gordon said. "Things can swing like that. I think everybody could see it. We started hitting the ball a little better, and we got to him."

They did that, chasing Verlander in the seventh.

That was Gordon's only hit of the day, but it was an appropriate contribution for a young player who's been put in the crucial No. 3 hole in just his second season.

"Obviously, the big home run today was slotted for us, but he had some tough at-bats as well," manager Trey Hillman said.

"I'm not going to back myself or Alex Gordon into a corner and say he's going to hit third all season long. That's the way we came out of Spring Training. We'll try that for a little while and see which way we go."

Hillman appreciated Gordon's game-ending play but also pointed to other defensive gems.

For one, right fielder Jose Guillen demonstrated his gun in the third inning. Grabbing up Carlos Guillen's single, he fired a rocket to catcher John Buck to get Magglio Ordonez trying to score from second base.

Second baseman Mark Grudzielanek was cited for a good backhanded pickup and a diving stab of Polanco's line drive. Those came even though his glove hand was drilled by a pitch in the fourth inning and Grudzielanek was hurting.

"To make the play on the line drive, that's exceptional," Hillman said. "That's a guy that wants to be out there. That's the kind of player that Gruddy is."

Gordon seconded that motion and bowed to his manager.

"It's about playing the game hard," Gordon said. "They have a lot of talent over there, and we feel like we have some, too. We feel like if we go hard every day, which he [Hillman] emphasizes, then things are going to work out for us."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.