Forget the cliches about a new season. Forget what you heard about starting even.
Tonight, the Detroit Tigers needed two batters to get uneven with the Kansas City Royals. From there, they cruised to an 8-1 victory in the first game of the American League championship series.
On a gorgeous fall evening in Royals Stadium, the Tigers showed 41,973 fans how they won 104 games in the regular season.
They got seven innings of five-hit pitching from Jack Morris. They got a single, triple, home run and three RBI from shortstop Alan Trammell. And they got home runs from Larry Herndon and Lance Parrish as part of a 14-hit offense.
"The first two hitters of the game were behind two strikes and both got base hits," the Royals' manager, Dick Howser, said, "That was some pretty good hitting and a good indication of what kind of an evening it was going to be."
It was an evening when substitute umpires went almost unnoticed because the score was so lopsided. The one close call went against the Royals and Howser said later he thought the call was correct.
Wednesday, the Royals will send rookie Bret Saberhagen to the mound in the second game to try to prevent the series from becoming a mismatch. He was 10-11 overall, but 3-0 against the Tigers. Dan Petry (18-8) will pitch for Detroit.
As you might expect, Manager Sparky Anderson played down the significance of the Tigers' easy victory, working so hard to do so that he scheduled the fourth game of the series in two cities.
"It's just one game. All it means is that we'll be playing here on Saturday . . . in Detroit," he said. "This was a great night for our ballclub but I still think this is going to be a five-game series."
If it is, there are going to be a lot of shocked Tigers. Living up to center fielder Chet Lemon's contention that "this team is not content yet," the Tigers jumped on starter and loser Bud Black in the first inning with chilling efficiency.
Lou Whitaker opened with a line single. Trammell followed with a triple to the base of the left field wall. Left fielder Darryl Motley might have caught the ball but he turned the wrong way and the ball sailed over his head.
"It was directly over his head and that's the toughest play for an outfielder to make," Howser said. "He turned the wrong way. In fact, he turned a couple of ways."
By the time Motley picked the ball up off the warning track, Trammell was on third and the Tigers led, 1-0. The game was three minutes old.
Before the first inning was over, it was 2-0. Parrish got Trammell home with a fly ball to deep right-center on which Pat Sheridan made an excellent, lunging backhand catch.
Morris, a great pitcher the first half of the season and an ordinary one the second half, retired the first seven batters and 10 in a row at a later juncture. The Royals had base runners in only two innings against him.
"I think it really helped all of us, including Jack that we got those two runs in the first inning," Trammell said. "It gave us momentum, it kept us from worrying about getting behind. It just made us all looser."
Morris, who has been so uptight at times this season that his teammates have criticized him, was as cool as the weather from the start. His only real scare came in the third.
Don Slaught began it when he got the Royals' first hit with one out, lining a single to right. After Morris got Onix Concepcion to pop to center, Willie Wilson sliced a single to left and Sheridan, after fouling off five pitches, walked when Morris fell flat trying to throw a 3-2 slider.
"My spikes just caught on the pitch," he said with a shrug. "I guess I overthrew it a little. But there I was, bases loaded, a situation I'm not that accustomed to."
The hitter was George Brett, a man certainly accustomed to playoff heroics. In four previous playoff appearances, Brett had hit six home runs, including three in one 1978 game against the Yankees.
Tonight though, Morris won the confrontation. He got Brett to line a 1-2 pitch to right field. There, Kirk Gibson made a fine, running back-handed catch.
"I started in and realized I was beyond the point of no return," Gibson said. "I realized if it got by me it would go to the wall for three sure runs. If we're going to win, we have to make the plays. I was glad I could this time."
"He did a good job staying with the ball because it was diving and hooking," Anderson added. "A year ago, George would have run a long way on that ball."
Instead, George ran back to play third base. From there he and the rest of the Royals watched helplessly as left fielder Larry Herndon hit Black's second pitch of the fourth inning into the left field bleachers to make the lead 3-0. One inning later, Trammell needed one less pitch leading off to make it 4-0.
By now, Morris was on cruise control and it seemed apparent that four runs would be plenty. It was so apparent that Howser lifted Black after five innings and 90 pitches, deciding to save him in the hope that there will be a fourth game.
It was 5-0 by the time the Royals got another runner against Morris. It came in the seventh when Jorge Orta, the ex-everything who has found a home here, led off with a triple over Lemon's head to the center field wall. He scored on Motley's grounder a moment later.
The Royals got two more singles with two men out but Howser elected not to pinch-hit for No. 9 hitter Concepcion. He lofted a soft line drive to left field, ending the threat, and, for all practical purposes, the ball game.
The Tigers, acting aroused at the sight of a Kansas City run, scored two more in the eighth and another in the ninth on Parrish's home run. When Morris opened a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand, Anderson brought Willie Hernandez in to get the last six outs.
"I think Jack's mad at me for taking him out," Anderson said, grinning. "It's not serious at all, but I figured why take a chance?"
Morris laughed when he heard Anderson's statement. "Mad?, When I got this guy (he pointed at Hernandez) coming in behind me?" he said. "No way am I mad."