The Royals' sole possession of first place in the Central is no more.
There were myriad reasons that the Royals lost to the Tigers for the second straight night, but they were pretty much the same as the ones for last night's loss.
The Royals defensive unit played sloppily once again. Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer both saw ground balls up the line that should have been converted into outs but weren't--one two steps to Moustakas's right being deemed so routine that he was charged with an error. Omar Infante, whose shoulder injury seems to be seriously affecting his play and was probably the cause for a should-have-been double-play not getting converted in Monday's loss, booted a routine grounder and was charged with the second Royals' error of the night. With the Royals clinging tightly to a two-run deficit, Alcides Escobar failed to field a grounder on a short hop, the ball kicking up off the heel of his glove. With a runner on second, this was nearly disastrous, but the ball bounced off Escobar's chest and stayed in front of him. Herrera escaped with a ground-ball out the following batter.
Neither the errors nor Escobar's gaffe led directly to Tigers runs, fortunately. They did, however, make Justin Vargas's [yeah, I wrote "Justin," but I'm leaving it because he pitched like a Justin not a Jason tonight] night longer.
While not nearly as terrible as Guthrie's outing the night before, the patient and dangerous Tigers got to Vargas, working his pitch count into the 40s by the end of the second. The Tigers plated two runs in an insanely long second inning in which he issued two full-count walks and gave up a long home run to Rajai Davis. Vargas also let J.D. Martinez hang a long dong to left. When Vargas left, down 4 - 2.
The Royals' bullpen once again held down the Tigers offensive attack upon taking the reins. Aaron Crow and Kelvin Herrera worked out of trouble and kept the Royals in the game.
As has been the case since the Royals' torrid hot streak came to an abrupt end, the Royals offense came up lame. Their punchless attack consisted of nine singles and a double. They even chipped in five walks, but the Royals were unable to come through with runners in scoring position--though an Alex Gordon near-three-run-bomb almost changed that. When the entirety of your offense relies upon sequencing and hoping Alex Gordon bails your ass out--which he almost did--this is bound to happen.
Max Scherzer wasn't even at the top of his game. He allowed seven hits and issued four walks. He did plenty to let the Royals back into the game. They were completely unable to capitalize, though. It's hard to feel bullish about the Royals' offense when a pitcher
Then the top of the ninth happened. Norichika Aoki led off with an infield single to short that he legged out. Omar Infante followed with an identical hit, barely beating out the throw to first. With Alex Gordon at the plate, Ned Yost pinch-ran for Infante with Terrance Gore. After Gordon struck out on a filthy full-count slider that he foul tipped into Avila's glove, the urgency to score from second increased and Yost fingered Dyson to pinch-run for Aoki. Intent on taking third with Salvador Perez at the plate, Dyson got picked off at second base after committing to stealing and getting caught in No Man's Land. With Perez suddenly representing just the tying, not the winning run, at the dish, he struck out.
For two straight nights, the Royals have looked utterly listless. They are left hoping that James Shields lives up to his co-opted nickname. If not, it would really appear that this team is toast.