For his third straight start, Kansas City Royals' presumptive ace Johnny Cueto struggled to keep the opposition off the basepaths. Battling command and seemingly unable to keep the ball low in the zone, the Detroit Tigers were able to spray balls to all fields, never really destroying Cueto's offerings but managing to find gaps in the defense just the same.
The bulk of the damage done to Cueto was done early.
In the first, Anthony
Gueuze Gose led off with a single, which Jarrod Dyson got back to the infield quickly. As Gose had rounded first, Alcides Escobar rifled a pick-off attempt back toward first base, but the throw was errant and moseyed on out of play and into the dugout, advancing the Tigers' lead-off man to third on the error.
Despite two one-out singles in the first inning, Cueto got out of the first with just the one earned run, thanks in part to a Miguel Cabrera memory lapse/bout of temporary amnesia in which he thought that he was fast enough to go first-to-third on a shallow fly ball to center. Jarrod Dyson calmly recorded his seventh outfield assist in just his 466th inning in the field this year because teams apparently haven't figured out that he has a deceptively strong arm.
The Royals escaped the top of the first down just 1 - 0.
Unfortunately, things did not go Johnny Cueto's way in the second either.
He started off yielding a single to Nick Castellanos and a double to Tyler Collins. James McCann grounded out to Omar Infante, but Castellanos scored on the out. Jose Iglesias followed the RBI ground-out with a RBI-single of his own before Cueto recorded the next two outs with ease, running the Tigers' lead to 3 - 0.
The Royals added a run off of Justin Verlander in the bottom of the second when Eric Hosmer reached on an Ian Kinsler fielding error, went first-to-third on a Kendrys Morales single, and came home on an Alex Gordon sacrifice fly.
Cueto worked around a lead-off single in the third, but the Royals failed to capitalize on a one-out walk from Jarrod Dyson, leaving the score 3 - 1 Detroit heading to the fourth.
The hit parade recommenced in the fourth for Detroit. Collins led things off with a double. James McCann ripped a liner back toward the mound. Cueto extended his glove out only to watch the ball carom off the glove to Omar Infante, who reversed course in time to field the ball and record the out at first while Collins advanced to third on the play. Facing a drawn-in infield, Jose Iglesias smoked a grounder to Alcides Escobar, who threw out Collins at the plate, preventing the fourth Detroit run at least for a few more plays.
Unfortunately, Cueto hit Gose with the next pitch, moving Iglesias into scoring position. Kinsler singled The Churches in before Miguel Cabrera brought an end to the frame with a routine grounder to today's third baseman Ben Zobrist, who was giving Moustakas the day off on account of a tweaked hamstring.
After back-to-back backwards Ks from Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer, Kendrys Morales hung majestic dong on a Verlander slider that didn't slide, sending it 443 feet to the bleachers in right-center. The matched runs in the fourth brought the score to 4 - 2 Detroit.
Oddly, Cueto sent down the Tigers with ease and in order in the fifth and sixth innings, leading many to look wistfully off into the night wondering what might have been were the entire night such a breeze.
Verlander worked around two bloop singles from Salvador Perez and Omar Infante to start the fifth and sent the Royals down in order in the sixth.
With the sixth being his final frame, Cueto struck out two, walked none, gave up nine hits, and allowed four earned runs. It was by no means a great start, but it was slightly less bad than his prior two outings.
Ned Yost brought in Miguel Almonte--who was called up earlier today when the rosters expanded--and by time he had faced his second major-league hitter, Almonte had coughed up an Anthony Gose single and a two-run homer courtesy of Ian Kinsler that was sent into the pen from whence he came.
Down 6 - 2, the Royals added two runs of their own in the bottom of the seventh, as Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez led off with a double and single, respectively, and were driven in by an Omar Infante grounder and an Alcides Escobar single that came at the end of a 2-for-29 skid for Escobar.
Jeremy Guthrie held down the fort in the eighth (and again in the ninth), and the Royals mounted another threat to the Tigers' lead--at this point just 6 - 4.
Lorenzo Cain's lead-off single looked as though it would be squandered as Hosmer flew out and Morales went down looking at a Blaine Hardy curve that dropped in and painted the inside corner. But Alex Gordon singled with two outs, putting Royals on the corners. Salvador Perez ripped a grounder right past defensive replacement Austin Romine--who expressed consternation at not having caught the ball that looked playable--scoring Cain and sending Gordon's pinch-runner Paulo Orlando to third. Terrance Gore entered to pinch-run for the brick-shoed Perez, but he was never able to leave his station at first as pinch-hitter Mike Moustakas grounded out to second to end the rally.
Trailing 6 - 5, Tigers' closer Bruce Rondon struck out Jarrod Dyson and induced a routine grounder to short from Alcides Escobar to start the ninth. Then Ben Zobrist worked a four-pitch walk and promptly stole second base, giving the Royals hope. Unfortunately, that hope was a false one, and Lorenzo Cain grounded out to Austin Romine at third to put an end to the rally and the game.
The loss drops the Royals to 80-51, meaning the Blue Jays and Yankees, both of whom had already won, gained ground on the Royals for best record in the American League, the deciding factor in who gets home-field advantage throughout the AL side of the playoffs. The Royals lead the Jays by 5.5 games and the Yankees by 7.0.