After a particularly dreadful stretch where they were swept in three by the Los Angeles Dodgers (the best team in baseball), lost two of three to the Rangers, and lost the first two to the Tigers, a game (read: laugher) like tonight’s was a welcome palate cleanser for the Kansas City Royals.
Needing a win to get back to .500, the Royals attacked tonight’s game with a purpose. That purpose may have been largely exploitative to start the game, but they pressed on, pounding the pedal to the floor the whole night.
Thanks in part to a three-error first for Detroit, the Royals jumped out to a four-run for Danny Duffy to pitch with after spending just six pitches to get out of the top of the first.
Facing the Tigers’ best starting pitcher this season (Michael Fulmer), Whit Merrifield led off with a grounder ripped to third. Nicholas Castellanos fielded the ball cleanly, but his throw across the diamond was off the mark and brought Miguel Cabrera off the bag at first. Whit Merrifield narrowly escaped Cabrera’s sweeping tag, and the Royals got the lead-off man aboard thanks to rough D.
The comedy of errors had just begun.
Jorge Bonifacio followed with a singled to the gap in right center, but Mikie Mahtook had issues fielding the ball. Merrifield rounded third and saw Mike Jirschele surprisingly waving him home. He raced across the plate while Mahtook’s throw to the general vicinity of home plate missed the cut-off man and went feebly up the line, with Bonifacio to reach second with ease on the play.
Two batters. Two errors. One single. One run.
Lorenzo Cain continued to be overmatched by Fulmer, striking out badly for the first out of the inning. Eric Hosmer came to the plate and saw just one strike en route to a walk. Salvador Pérez hit a bloop single that dropped in shallow left between José Iglesias, Justin Upton, and Castellanos. Bonifacio rounded third on the play and started for home before being held up. As he turned back to the bag, he saw that Eric Hosmer was closing in on the bag at third. Stuck in no man’s land, he did what had to be done and started home with the intent of getting caught in a run-down to allow Pérez to reach second. Bonifacio trotted towards home—resigned to a fate that would have seen his time on the basepaths result in a TOOTBLAN—only to watch as Iglesias’s throw home take a weird bounce off of James McCann and skitter up the line towards first. Bonifacio raced to the plate on the error, which was charged to Iglesias though it was at least as much on McCann for not catching it.
Four batters. Three errors. Two singles. Two runs.
Mike Moustakas hit a flare into shallow right, singling in Hosmer from third and moving Pérez to third. Alcides Escobar followed with a groundout to first, hitting it pretty much directly at Cabrera standing next to the bag. Pérez broke for home, and Cabrera came home with the throw. Through some bizarre twist of fate, Pérez slid wide of the bag, and the plodding, stone-footed catcher evaded McCann’s tag at the plate, slapping the dish with his hand in a slide usually seen by men known as crafty baserunners like Lorenzo Cain or Jarrod Dyson or Javier Báez.
Fulmer eventually got out of the first, but not before finding himself and the Tigers down 4-0, and his pitch count at 37.
The Royals had a quiet second inning, but the third was anything but quiet.
Fulmer finished off Cain with a groundout to make him the sixth straight Royal he’d sent down for the first out of the third. Then Eric Hosmer absolutely obliterated a hung breaker, hanging demoralizing dong to the fountains in DEEP right center. Fulmer slipped with another breaker against Pérez, ringing his bell with a breaker in the ear flap. Unfazed at having been hit in the head with a pitch, Pérez broke for second on the least likely stolen base in human history. Pérez beat McCann’s throw to second because why the hell wouldn’t he? This led the world to wonder what angel on the infield was carrying Pérez around like he was a not slow man. After Mike Moustakas popped out, Alcides Escobar punched a two-out grounder to Iglesias in the hole, but his Tiger counterpart had no play on the ball. Brandon Moss followed with a scorcher to the gap in right center, doubling in both Pérez and Escobar. Gordon went the other way for a double of his own, plating Moss.
That spelled the end of the night for Fulmer. The Royals led 8-0. He finished 2.2 innings, striking out two, walking one, hitting another, and yielding seven hits. Five of the runs were earned, and he was responsible for Gordon at second. Chad Bell entered in relief of Fulmer, and he took care of Whit Merrifield—batting for the third time in just the third inning—to put Fulmer’s start gone awry in the books.
With the weather listed officially as hot as balls, Royals’ starter Danny Duffy was not messing around on the mound.
Through the first three innings, Royals’ starter Danny Duffy allowed just one baserunner, Mikie Mahtook, who reached on a one-out double in the second. Upon review, Duffy picked Mahtook off, thanks in large part to Mahtook sliding directly into Merrifield’s foot that was blocking the bag. He erased the runner and faced the minimum through three frames.
With two outs in the fourth, Justin Upton became the second Tiger to reach base, singling through the left side of the infield. With his 43rd pitch of the night, Duffy got Miguel Cabrera to fly out routinely to center to put an end to the top of the fourth.
The Tigers finally got on the board in the fifth, thanks to an RBI-single from José Iglesias and a two-run double from Ian Kinsler, closing the gap to 8-3. They added another run in the sixth, and actually brought the game-tying run to the plate before Ned Yost turned to the pen and Mike Minor. Minor slammed the door on the Tigers’ rally, and the Royals went to the bottom of the sixth protecting an 8-4 lead.
That 8-4 lead did not last long. The Royals notched their third four-run inning of the night, fueled by a one-out Whit Merrifield dong of the solo variety, and a string of singles from Bonifacio, Cain, Hosmer, and Pérez. Moustakas drove in a run with a sac fly, and the Royals once again held an eight-run lead.
The Royals’ 12-4 lead stayed that way through a top of the eighth where Detroit loaded the bases with just one out against former Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque. Then the Royals offense got back to work against Alex Wilson, this time featuring a heavy dose of reserves. Billy Burns legged out an infield single, and the fearsome Drew Butera drew a walk to set the table for Mike Moustakas. Moustakas stroked a liner to left-center for his third hit on the night, driving in the fleet-footed Burns. Alcides Escobar doubled to deep center, driving in Butera, and Brandon Moss followed with a single to stay hot and drive in the fourth Royals run of the inning and running the score to 16-4. Gordon and Merrifield followed with singles to load the bases.
The Royals showed mercy and let Wilson escape the inning allowing just four runs, and Ned Yost turned to Kevin McCarthy to protect the Royals’ 12-run lead. McCarthy allowed a baserunner but closed the door.
The win puts the Royals back at .500 with a 47-47 record, putting them 1.5 games back in the Central and a game behind the Twins, who are in second.