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Bullpen struggles again late as Tigers squeak by Royals 5-4

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The Royals bullpen wasn’t as bad today, but it wasn’t enough

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The struggles of the Royals bullpen continued on a cold afternoon in Detroit, giving up two runs late, including the game-winning run, in a 5-4 loss to the Tigers.

The loss pushed Kansas City’s losing streak to four games.

In a game that featured multiple lead changes, The Royals struck first in the top half of the 1st, with Alex Gordon walking and scoring on a Jorge Soler bloop double. Nick Castellanos bobbled the ball trying to grab it with his bare hand, which allowed Gordon to score easily.

The walk and run scored were Alex’s 5th and 8th respectively on the season. For reference, Gordon didn’t score his 8th run of the 2018 season until May 4 and didn’t draw his 5th walk until May 11.

The lead didn’t last long, however. Royals starter Jakob Junis struggled with the Tigers out of the gate in the bottom half of the inning, walking the first two batters he saw and giving up an RBI single to Miguel Cabrera. Niko Goodrum followed with an RBI groundout to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead.

Junis’ early control problems came as a surprise. Currently, Junis is the Royals all-time leader in strikeout-to-walk ratio for pitchers with at least 250 innings pitched at 3.76. For reference, Junis walked fewer than two batters in 19 of his 30 starts last season.

The Royals would recover nicely, however, tying things up in the 3rd on back-to-back-to-back singles from Whit Merrifield, Gordon, and Soler. Merrifield’s single extended his league-best 26-game hitting streak going back to last season and is just four games away from tying the Royals record of 30 games set by George Brett in 1980.

Merrifield wasn’t done yet, either, leading off the 5th with a triple to center field. The triple was the Royals’ league-leading 5th of the season, nearly equal to the next three teams combined. After Adalberto Mondesi’s third strikeout of the afternoon, Gordon stayed productive by driving in Merrifield with a sac fly to left, giving the Royals a 3-2 lead.

The RBI was Gordon’s 6th on the season. Again, for reference, Gordon’s 6th RBI in 2018 didn’t come until May 8. However, the Tigers would tie the game the very next inning on a Goodrum bloop double to right, his second double of the day and his 6th of the season.

Aside from a few hiccups, both starters performed well, especially in the strikeout department. Turnbull set a career high with 10 strikeouts in six innings of work while Junis managed eight strikeouts in his six innings. Both allowed three runs, with two of Turnbull’s being earned.

As has been a common theme through five games, however, a quality start from a Royals starter was immediately wasted by a futile bullpen. Kyle Zimmer entered the game in relief of Junis in the 7th inning and promptly walked the bases loaded. Kevin McCarthy relieved Zimmer, who failed to record an out, and immediately issued a four-pitch walk to Goodrum, putting the Tigers up 4-3. Christin Stewart followed with a sac fly to extend that lead to 5-3.

McCarthy would get the next two Tigers without incident and, all things considered, the inning could have been worse. McCarthy limiting the damage kept the Tigers from blowing it open, and a Gordon solo homer in the 8th made it a one-run game. It was Gordon’s second homer in as many days and, yes, for reference, Gordon’s second home run of 2018 did not come until May 3.

Brad Boxberger kept the Tigers off the board in the 8th and the Royals were able to get the tying run on base in the 9th with a Billy Hamilton single. However, Tigers closer Shane Greene got Merrifield to ground out to end the game and secure his 5th save of the season.

Up Next: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers. Friday, April 5, 2019, 12:10 PM CDT, Comerica Park. RHP Jorge Lopez (0-1, 7.20 ERA) v. LHP Matt Moore (0-0, -.-- ERA)