Anibal Sanchez continued to dominate the Royals, even if he actually allowed more than one run in Sunday's outing.
The Tigers' offense finally broke out, scoring more runs on Sunday than they did in the first three games of the series together en route to a 6-4 victory over the Royals. A steady arsenal of hits against Jeremy Guthrie did the trick for Detroit; it banged out 11 hits in the first six innings, and that would be all the Tigers needed to earn a split of the four-game series.
Guthrie (1-2) getting knocked around has become an unfortunate common occurrence early in 2015. He allowed all 11 of the Tigers hits and struck out just one batter. Against a team that hits as well as Detroit does, being unable to strike out batters is certain to bite the pitcher. Pitching to contact didn't work for Guthrie, as the Tigers had at least one baserunner in each of his six innings. After allowing six runs on Sunday afternoon, his ERA inflated to a team-worst 6.52.
The numbers in Guthrie's first five starts are troubling. He's allowed at least six hits in every start. He's yet to strike out more than three batters in a contest. His WHIP on the year is a whopping 1.59. His ground ball rate is way up, but you also have to calculate how much worse the numbers would be if he didn't have the Royals defense behind him. It's pretty difficult to have an ERA north of six with Kansas City's defenders helping you out.
It was the first poor performance by a Royals starter all series, as Danny Duffy, Chris Young, and Edinson Volquez all held the Tigers to two runs or fewer. The Tigers scored the first six runs of the game, the first four of which came off the bat of Royal-killer Alex Avila. Two RBI singles scored four runs, and after four innings, the Tigers led 4-0. They would add two more runs on Miguel Cabrera's sixth home run of the season, a two-run blast to left field that had the sellout crowd of over 38,000 booing.
One night removed from getting shut down by David Price, Kansas City's offense was lifeless early on once again. Sanchez (2-3) worked five perfect innings to begin his outing. It wasn't until Paulo Orlando led off the sixth with a single that the Royals got a baserunner, and they would get their first run the next inning when Eric Kratz, inserted into the blowout for Salvador Perez, earned his first RBI of the year on a sacrifice fly. Kansas City plated a second run on an Omar Infante single in that inning, closing the gap to 6-2.
In the eighth, the Royals chased Sanchez from the game after Christian Colon singled and Alex Gordon doubled. Both would score on a groundout by Mike Moustakas and a single from Kendrys Morales, making the score 6-4 and giving the sellout crowd a reason to be optimistic. The Tigers bullpen was up to their usual tricks, but unlike last year, a dominant closer was looming for Kansas City in the bullpen. Former Royal All-Star Joakim Soria worked a perfect ninth for his first save against his former team, and his AL-leading 10th on the season.
Sanchez' line finished as follows: 7.1 innings, four hits, three runs, four strikeouts, and one walk. It took eight times, but the Royals finally managed to score more than one run against him. Entering Sunday, his ERA in seven starts against Kansas City was 1.07, which is the lowest mark in Royals history for a starter against them (minimum seven games).
In all, Kansas City managed just six hits after banging out five yesterday. The 11 hits are the worst two-game total for the Royals yet this season.
Detroit (17-9) climbed back into the lead atop the AL Central, moving a half-game ahead of Kansas City (16-9). The four-game split was fine in the long run, but after winning the first two games of the set, the Royals surely hoped for more than they got. At the same time, when you run into two pitchers as good as Price and Sanchez, it's not the end of the world.
Up next: the Royals have their first scheduled off day tomorrow since April 14. They will continue the homestand on Tuesday when the last-place Cleveland Indians head to town for three games. Jason Vargas (2-1, 5.95 ERA) will look to turn around his rough start to the season by facing Danny Salazar (3-0, 3.32), who defeated the Royals last Wednesday.