In a lot of ways, this is a pretty standard game. No one had a monster, unexpected night. The Royals struggled to score and their pitching was juuuust good enough to give you some hope while still being bad enough that you never really thought the Royals had a chance.
The Tigers scored all of their runs in the first three innings. Jorge López looked pretty lost in the first inning. Five of the first six batters he faced either reached or drove in a run. After that, he was actually pretty good. If you subtract that first inning he would have pitched six innings and allowed one run on a pair of hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Unfortunately, that first inning does count. Still, seven innings from him is pretty good work.
The suddenly dominant Matt Boyd continued his stretch of quality pitching against the Royals. He also pitched seven innings and allowed only a pair of runs while striking out nine. The Royals scored both of their runs off of him in in the fourth inning. The inning included an RBI triple by Kelvin Gutierrez with only one out but Boyd successfully struck out the sadly inept duo of Chris Owings and Martín Maldonado to escape the inning without allowing another run. Something that would come back to haunt the Royals, later.
Jorge Soler had a nice home run off of Tigers closer and reigning AL Reliever of the Month Shane Green in the ninth inning to bring it within one. Ryan O’Hearn had a good at-bat pinch-hitting for Chris Owings which resulted in a double but Maldonado popped out to end the Royals’ threat and the game.
I worried that by the time the Royals bullpen calmed down and started having an occasional scoreless inning that the offense would desert them and those fears seem to have been well-founded. Coming into tonight the Royals had four hitters with good to excellent offensive numbers including Hunter Dozier who had an unbelievable 193 wRC+ before the contest began. The problem is that having a third of the lineup nowhere near average offensively means that a lot of rallies are going to fizzle out before they can really get started and a lot of the home runs are going to end up being solo shots when the best hitters at the top of the lineup launch them after the bottom three just all struck out, again.
The Royals have some guys who are much better than the guys they had last year. We thought that would make them more fun. But it turns out it’s actually making them a lot more frustrating to watch. How long can Dayton Moore justify keeping Chris Owings and Billy Hamilton on this roster while Nicky Lopez and Bubba Starling continue to hit well in AAA? Another interesting storyline will be Lucas Duda’s return from the injury list. Kelvin Gutierrez has looked pretty at home in the big league lineup. Does it really make sense for the Royals to demote him back to AAA to keep giving at-bats to Duda and his 68 wRC+?
The Royals will continue their series with the Tigers tomorrow afternoon when Homer Bailey will try to rebound for the Royals. The Tigers will counter with new father Tyson Ross. He’s right-handed so maybe Ryan O’Hearn can at least get to start, again.