Detroit – The Tigers on Sunday went from chasing a no-hitter to falling into a pair of three-run holes, ultimately dropping the finale of the four-game series to the Royals, 8-5.
They fought back once – erasing a three-run deficit in the bottom of the sixth inning. But the Royals put up three more in the top of the seventh – walks and towering home runs proving a fatal combination.
Right-hander Drew VerHagen walked a pair and was hastily removed by manager Ron Gardenhire – who saw walks fuel the Royals’ rally in the sixth.
Right-hander Buck Farmer, who had allowed only one run in his last seven outings, entered and hung a 2-2 change-up to left-handed hitting Mike Moustakas. He pounded the ball on a high arc over the right-field wall and onto the Belle Tire sign.
BOX SCORE: Royals 8, Tigers 5
The Tigers put the lead-off man on in the seventh and eighth innings, but couldn’t rally. Royals closer Kelvin Herrera put the Tigers down in order in the ninth.
The first half of the game was much quieter.
Left-hander Francisco Liriano took a 2-0 lead and a no-hitter into the sixth inning. His fast-climbing pitch count – it was 79 after five innings – added to the suspense.
But Tigers’ nemesis Whit Merrifield altered the storyline, leading off the sixth with a home run into the bullpen in left field. Cheslor Cuthbert followed with a double and, one out and a walk later, Liriano left to warm applause from the Comerica Park crowd.
Alex Wilson entered and walked Paulo Orlando after getting ahead of him 0-2.
Abraham Almonte then bashed a 91-mph fastball 425 feet into seats in right field – grand slam home run. According to ESPN Stats, the Royals were 0-for-15 with the bases loaded before that home run.
Wilson has allowed three home runs this season – all three were lead-changers.
Three of the five runs in the inning were charged to Liriano, who walked four and gave up the two hits. Tigers pitchers walked eight and four of those scored.
Through the first five innings, though, Liriano had not allowed any hard contact, let alone any hits. The average exit velocity on balls put in play by the Royals was 77 mph.
But he tried to sneak a 91-mph four-seam fastball by Merrifield on an 0-1 pitch. It was one of just five four-seamers Liriano threw in the game.
The Tigers answered right back in the bottom of the sixth. Royals starter Eric Skoglund walked Jeimer Candelario and Miguel Cabrera and was lifted for right-hander Kevin McCarthy.
Nick Castellanos and JaCoby Jones followed with RBI singles and James McCann tied the game with a sacrifice fly, scoring Castellanos.
That ended up being the last hurrah, though.
Castellanos had three hits including an RBI single in the first. Candelario knocked in the Tigers’ first run with a double in the first.
The bottom of the lineup came up in the ninth inning, and the losing streak being extended to double-digits seemed inevitable. Then, somehow, just this once, things were different for the Kansas City Royals.
THEY FINALLY WON A GAME WHEN THE OPPONENT SCORED A RUN!
The Royals beat the Tigers, 3-2, behind a ninth-inning rally that ended a nine-game losing streak. It just goes to show that even the worst of Royals teams still can’t be held down by the joy that is the Detroit Tigers bullpen.
Earlier in the day, Jason Hammel was screwed once again by a terrible offensive performance, throwing nine innings and giving up just two runs yet not getting a win. The Royals lost in extra innings after going 0-for with runners in scoring position.
Entering the ninth inning tonight, the Royals had 22 baserunners in the two games and it only produced three total runs. Then the light switch came on.
Ryan Goins, Alcides Escobar, and Abraham Almonte had three straight hits in a row. Do you have any idea how the hell rare that is? It was impossible to fathom entering the inning, and now that I’ve actually seen it happen, I’m still skeptical that it happened. Almonte’s at bat was actually really good, as he hung in there for a long battle before blooping a single right in front of the right fielder. It tied the contest, 2-2.
Right after that, Jon Jay, who was way beyond due after struggling all night, hit a slow-roller to first base, but the play was botched by Niko Goodrum. He bobbled the ball and then fired it over the head of the pitcher covering first, which allowed Escobar to fly around third and score. 3-2, Royals.
Jakob Junis was so so so good, too. In a season-high 8 innings, he allowed just four hits and two runs. He struck out four Tigers. Through four starts, his ERA is a sterling 2.03. Thanks to the offense’s big rally, he is 3-1 on the year. It’s kind of amazing that the team is 4-14 and Junis has three wins.
Something to think about: Royals starting pitchers threw 17 innings in two games today. Hammel and Junis were both spectacular, but only one of them is getting the marginal run support this offense is capable of providing.
Kelvin Herrera, because he is the team’s biggest badass, continued his electric start to the season by blowing away the Tigers in the ninth inning. He showed off 98 and 99 mph heat with ease while working around a pinch-hit single by Miguel Cabrera. It is his third save of the year in as many chances.
Here are the other scoring plays:
In the third, Jose Iglesias hit an RBI single to give Detroit a 1-0 lead. Whit Merrifield tied the contest with a homer to left in the fifth. And then in the seventh, Detroit broke the tie when JaCoby Jones hit a sacrifice fly.
The bottom of the lineup is seriously so damn bad that I don’t think words can do it justice. Paulo Orlando, Alcides Escobar, Abraham Almonte, Drew Butera, and whoever the hell else makes up the 6-7-8-9 in most of the team’s games are all hitting .209 or worse. The first five hitters are usually pretty competent, but once you get to the No. 6 spot, everything just falls apart. It was such a struggle to watch all game long. And so of course, when it mattered most, they flipped a switch and made it all count.
Another note that I can’t put elsewhere: Jorge Soler didn’t start earlier in the day because… you just have to get Abraham Almonte’s bat in the lineup, I guess. In the nightcap, he had a double and two walks. It is inexcusable for him not to be playing every single day. Whether your goal is to win now or to win later, Soler needs to be playing. Luckily, when Alex Gordon comes back next week, I’d think Almonte would be the one to get DFA’d to make room.
Salvador Perez should come back next week and give this lineup a big jolt. It’ll give Mike Moustakas some legitimate protection in the batting order, and it’ll eliminate the backup catchers from hitting, which is one of your 6-7-8-9 “black holes.” Alex Gordon will return too, which honestly might negate the backup catcher back hole clearing by inserting himself back into the lineup. But hey, reports have said that he’s “hitting the ball well” in Omaha.
Up next: the series continues tomorrow. It’s Danny Duffy’s turn to take the mound. He will oppose Mike Fiers. First pitch is at 12:10 CDT. The Royals will try to win their first series of the season, but they’ll have to win the next two games to do so. Get hyped.
Soler is on the bench for the first half of Friday’s doubleheader against the Tigers, Joel Goldberg of FOX Sports Kansas City reports.
Whit Merrifield will start in right field, with Ryan Goins getting a start at second base. After a bitterly disappointing first year in Kansas City in which he posted a 32 wRC+ and spent much of the year in the minors, Soler seems to be rebounding this season. He has a solid if unspectacular .267/.346/.378 line through his first 13 games, good for a 102 wRC+. Kauffman Stadium may put a dent in his overall numbers, but he’s at least suggesting again that he deserves to be a major-league player.
Orlando is not in the lineup for the first game of Friday’s doubleheader against the Tigers, Joel Goldberg of FOX Sports Kansas City reports.
It’s likely that the Royals will give most or all of their hitters the chance to start in one of the two games. Abraham Almonte will get the start in center field in the first half of the twin bill. With Alex Gordon nearing a return from his hip injury, Orlando’s temporary starting job isn’t likely to last much longer. He’s done very little to claim more playing time, hitting .225/.244/.275 through 11 games.
Duffy will throw on three days’ rest Saturday against the Tigers, Rustin Dodd of The Athletic Kansas City reports.
With two doubleheaders in the span of four days, the Royals are unable to keep their starters on a normal rotation. They’re electing to throw Duffy on short rest rather than call up a spot starter. There’s a good chance that the lefty won’t be able to go as deep into the game as he normally would and his overall performance could be affected, but at least he gets to face a relatively weak Tigers offense. So far this season, Duffy has thrown 21 innings with a 3.86 ERA. He has a solid 25.6 percent strikeout rate, but his 12.2 percent walk rate is nearly double the 6.7 percent figure he posted last season.