Fresh off an offensive outburst the night before, Ned Yost decided to use the exact same lineup for today's game, and things started quickly again. Only instead of four early runs, it was two one-pitch outs and another strike out for the apparently-broken-again Kendrys Morales.
In the second inning, things went a little bit better. Paulo Orlando dropped a bunt single in front of Michael Fulmer. Cheslor Cuthbert followed by sending a fastball on the upper outside corner to deep right field for an RBI double.
In the third inning, the Royals did something no one has done to Fulmer since his fourth start: tagged him with a second earned run. Jarrod Dyson led off the inning with a walk. Alcides Escobar then tried to bunt for a single, but Miguel Cabrera just got him with a tag. Eric Hosmer smashed a fastball down the middle through the hole in the infield caused by the Tigers' defensive shift to bring Dyson home. Morales smashed a single on another pitch down the middle into right field, but Fulmer struck out Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon to end the threat.
Staked to a two-run lead, Yordano Ventura struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia and all seemed well. Then Jose Iglesias chopped a pitch into the dirt and over Cuthbert, playing to defend a bunt. Ian Kinsler hit a solid single into left-center, and then Cameron Maybin squeezed a groundball in between Cuthbert and Escobar to load the bases. Up came Miguel Cabrera who struck out looking on a high change-up. Cabrera seemed unhappy with the call, but home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn had been calling high strikes the entire game (Eric Hosmer and Kinsler had both already taken exception to such calls). Unfortunately, moments later Ventura was called for a balk which ‘‘drove in" a run. I'm not going to lie; I have no idea how a balk is called. Supposedly Ventura didn't come set, and even the TV crew initially seemed unsure as to whether he had or not, though later they emphatically decided he had. He sure seemed to come to a stop to me. The best news of the entire game, however, was that Ventura didn't let it rattle him and struck out notoriously difficult to strike out Victor Martinez with a nasty change up two pitches later. Also, the Royals escaped the inning with the lead halved, but still intact.
Ventura and Fulmer both cruised from then until the bottom of the sixth. Once Ventura got two easy outs on Cabrera and Martinez, he gave up a hard hit ball to Nick Castellanos into the gap. Orlando had trouble picking it up, which allowed Castellanos to stretch it into a triple. He then went home on Ventura's wild pitch to Justin Upton. Tie game.
Yost trusted Ventura so much going into the seventh that he didn't even have anyone warming as he started the inning. Ventura got Tyler Collins to fly out, but he walked Salty and gave up singles to Iglesias and Kinsler to load the bases for Maybin. Fortunately Ventura justified Yost's faith by getting Maybin to ground into a double play and end the inning.
Fulmer pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, and Herrera worked around a one-out double in the eighth, at which point the Tigers went to their bullpen, and you had to think the Royals had a shot to finish this one off. Francisco Rodriguez picked up where Fulmer left off, stifling a weak Royals offense, sending them down in order. Then Soria picked up where he’s left off multiple times this season. Tyler Collins reached on a ground ball to left field. With a man on, Saltalamacchia jumped all over a 1-0 pitch from Soria to end the game with a deep home run to right field. Soria got charged with another loss - his fourth - in another melt down, giving him a team-leading ten that ties him for the league lead. It’s hard to justify letting him pitch important innings anymore.
It is not early in the season anymore. Watching the Royals bullpen give up two games against the Tigers bullpen in which they entered with a tie game and wasting solid starts from what has been a shaky rotation is no longer acceptable, if it ever was. If the Royals can’t get all the pieces to work together, they really will be watching the playoffs from home again this year.