In a game that featured three pinch-runners and multiple trips to the replay 'suitcase' that likely got both calls right, but overturned plays beneficial to the Royals, the ending was bittersweet.
Ian Kinsler drove in his second and the Tigers' second run of the game with a two out single off Tim Collins to score Austin Jackson in the tenth inning. Collins had walked Jackson to start the inning and then walked a second batter to put runners on first and second. After getting Alex Gonzalez to pop out, Kinsler ended it with a no doubt drive to the gap.
Another close game with Detroit (46 of the last 56 have been decided by two runs or less), another missed opportunity and another loss.
Kansas City got off to a hopeful start against Max Scherzer with an Aoki walk and Infante single to start the game. The inning crashed to a halt when Billy Butler grounded a 3-0 pitch into an inning ending double play. From that point until Salvador Perez led off the 8th with a double, no Kansas City runner reached second base.
Luckily for the Royals, Jason Vargas spit on the notion that today's game was a horrible pitching match-up. He struck out Miguel Cabrera looking...on a fastball...to end the first and, outside of an Ian Kinsler homer in the fourth, controlled the Tigers just as much as Scherzer controlled the Royals. Almost a third of his pitchers were change-ups and, for today anyway, he was impressive.
While I questioned Ned Yost's decision to not have anyone warming up in the bullpen as Vargas trudged out to start the seventh, Jason deftly worked around an Austin Jackson double to give the Royals seven outstanding innings. He benefited from a Salvador Perez gunning down of Alex Avila on an attempted steal (WTF Avila?) and also from a nice play by Mike Moustakas in the sixth to keep a run from scoring.
Perez's double to start the 8th was wasted as pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson was never moved as Moustakas (no clue whatsoever against Scherzer) struck out, Lorenzo Cain struck out and Alcides Escobar flied out.
Kelvin Herrera was outstanding, using things other than fastballs all the time, in the 8th and gave the Royals a chance to make noise in the 9th against Joe Nathan. They did...with Nathan's help.
After another Aoki out to start the ninth, Omar Infante sent (flaired? drove?) an 0-2 pitch back up the middle for a single. He was pinch run for by Pedro Ciriaco, who stole second three pitches later. Hosmer walked in what appeared to be a case of Nathan working him carefully. Billy Butler, who had also lined into a double play in the fourth, had a very professional at-bat and walked on the 8th pitch of the appearance.
Alex Gordon, with the bases loaded, lifted a deep fly to left to score Ciriaco and tie the game. That was immediately followed by an awkward and somewhat inexplicable balk by Joe Nathan to move Hosmer to third and Maxwell (pinch-running for Butler) to second. Nathan simply neglected to throw the ball as he went through his wind-up: weird.
Sadly, the Royals had Brett Hayes up, having pinch-run (correctly in my mind) for Perez in the eighth. Hayes actually did hit the ball hard, but on one hop to Ian Kinsler - there's that name again - to end the inning.
While I would have opted for Greg Holland in the ninth, Ned Yost went back to Wade Davis. The reliever responded with a salty bingo-bango-bongo ninth to send the game to extra frames.
In the tenth, Lorenzo Cain beat out an infield single and stole second. With two outs, Aoki hit a swinging bunt, hacking nib - whatever, the ball went about 31 feet - and was initially called safe at first. Replay, the second of the game, overturned the call and the game was still tied.
Then Tim Collins happened. He happened all over the bottom of the tenth.
Game over, kids. The Royals are 0-2 and have scored runs in two of their first 19 innings. It is hard to win games doing that.
A few random notes:
- Really Royals? A promo with the words 'The Royals will have you on the edge of your thrones?'
- Looked to me as though both reversals on the challenges were correct. I don't like it, but I think they got it right.
- Nori Aoki plays a deep rightfield. Two foul balls were hit down the right field line, beyond Hosmer. Not sure any/many rightfielders catch either, but Aoki was not really as close to getting them as it seemed like he should have been. (That is written with full acknowledgement that I am watching the game on TV and am quite far from the dirt).
- Tomorrow's game - on my birthday - with Yordano Ventura pitching is in doubt due to weather concerns. If ever a team needs to play right away, it's the Royals.