It seems rare that big national television match-ups live up to their billing, but FOX viewers got quite a show today as the Royals and Tigers played one of the more interesting, controversial, and nail-biting games this season. Max Scherzer and James Shields gave a terrific performance in the battle of aces, but it would ultimately be a bizarre baserunning gaffe and replay that would turn the game.
Detroit got on the board first when Torii Hunter golfed a James Shields cutter into the left-field bullpen to put the Tigers on top 1-0 in the fourth. The Royals were able to tie it when Jarrod Dyson doubled and scored on a ground ball single by Alcides Escobar that was probably playable by Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler.
The game really hinged on the sixth inning when things just went nuts. With one out, Salvador Perez singled and Eric Hosmer doubled to put runners at second and third. Omar Infante lined out to second baseman Ian Kinsler who threw to second base to attempt to double-off Hosmer, only to find Tigers shortstop Eugenio Suarez not paying attention, leading to an errant throw. Salvador Perez, in his giddiness to score on the wild throw, forgot to ever tag back up at third base (since it was a line out), instead dashing home for the apparent lead run.
After the Tigers made an appeal (although nobody in the FOX booth knew it because they wouldn't show what was happening on the field), the umpires huddled to decide what to do next. Replays clearly showed Perez had not gone back to tag the base.
From MLB: Play was not reviewable. The on-field umpire was told that the play was not reviewable. He was given no additional information.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) September 20, 2014
The umpires did see the replay on Crown Vision at the stadium, and after thinking it over, declared Perez was out. Would it surprise you this was an Angel Hernandez umpiring crew? The Royals wasted a gift run and the game was still tied 1-1.
With two outs and a runner at first, James Shields had a chance to exit the seventh unscathed. However a four-pitch walk to light-hitting shortstop Eugenio Suarez extending the inning for pinch-hitter Tyler Collins who singled home a run to make it 2-1. Rajai Davis singled home another run to extend the lead to 3-1.
Once Max Scherzer left the game after seven innings and 113 pitches, the Royals were able to plate a run in the eighth off reliever Joba Chamberlain on an RBI single by Eric Hosmer. Enter Joe Nathan. Royals fans had hope. That hope would increase after Jarrod Dyson singled. Then Alcides Escobar singled. Nori Aoki's ground out advanced the runners to second and third, but the Royals were down to their final out. So the season came down to - RAUL IBANEZ?????
Granted, Josh Willingham was having a tough game. He was 0-4 with three strikeouts, including two looking and just didn't look right. Billy Butler is 6-for-14 career against Joe Nathan. But Billy must have slept with Ned Yost's wife because he kept a firm seat on the bench as Yost summoned 42-year old Raul Ibanez, who is hitting .168/.261/.287 this year. One could have mistaken then Joe Nathan-Raul Ibanez matchup for an Old Timer's Game.
Predictably, the .168 hitter did not come through. Ibanez grounded to first and the game was over, the winning run stranded at second base. The Royals fall to 2.5 games back and barring one last amazing hot streak to end the season, have little chance of winning the Central Division. They now stand tied for the final Wild Card spot with Seattle, and if the Mariners beat the Astros tonight, the Royals could find themselves on the outside looking in.