Over eight years ago, the Royals drafted Bubba Starling. All these years later, he cracked the big league roster for the first time Friday night at Kauffman Stadium. Behind a crowd 25,059, Starling’s debut concluded with an 8-5 victory over the last place Tigers.
In the top of the first, Danny Duffy climbed the mound to nudge Kansas City in the right direction to kickstart the second half. Coming off a productive start against Cleveland last time out, Duffy struggled to put away the first few hitters to start things. After allowing a lead-off single to Victor Reyes and an RBI double to Nicholas Castellanos, the left-hander was in hot water early. Fortunately retiring the next three hitters without allowing Castellanos to score from second, the Royals came to bat in the bottom half. Facing Spencer Turnbull, a pitcher Kansas City has had fits with in 2019, the Royals looked to match the Tigers’ quick scoring. And that’s exactly what transpired. Leading things off with walk by Whit Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesí pushed him to third on a single to make it first and third before Turnbull could record an out. One batter later, Alex Gordon plated the first run on a shallow sacrifice fly to left field.
After a scoreless frame from Duffy in the second, the most anticipated at-bat of the season came next. Walking to the plate to the tune of “Crazy Train”, the crowd roared for the home-town kid in his first chance to step to the dish in a Royals uniform. Taking the first four pitches to work the count to 3-1, Starling watched the fifth pitch spin low and away for ball four. Later in the inning, he scampered home for the second run on a poor throw to first base during double play chance.
Heading out to the bump with a 2-1 advantage, the wheels suddenly flew off for Duffy. With nobody on, Reyes smacked a liner off of Duffy’s throwing hand, sending Ned Yost and trainer Nick Kenney out to the mound. Staying in the game, the Tigers began to pound on the wounded Royals’ starter. Allowing three straight hits and giving up the lead, Yost came out a second time with the intentions of removing him before it got out of hand. Completing just two-plus innings of work, the decision was made to call on Jorge Lopez to relieve Duffy. Although a poor outing, there was some positive news as the x-rays came back negative, labeling Duffy as day-to-day.
Entering the game with second and third and nobody out, Lopez looked for a fresh start after an abysmal first half. Forcing a grounder to first base against his first batter, Cheslor Cuthbert booted the ball, bringing home Detroit’s fourth run of the night. However, Lopez notched a strikeout and a double play to escape, leaving the score at 4-2.
Just like they had done in the first, Kansas City came storming back once again. With two outs, Jorge Soler roped a double to right-center, cutting the lead to 4-3. Seconds later, Cuthbert made up for his error with an absolute bomb to the Hall of Fame in left field. Regaining the lead, Lopez returned to the mound. Pitching two more scoreless frames, the 26-year-old righty did his job in picking up the slack after Duffy’s short outing. Finishing with three complete innings, Lopez was relieved in the sixth by Kevin McCarthy.
Trailing by one, the Tigers attempted to strike off the second man out of the Royals’ bullpen. Christin Stewart started the rally with a lead-off double to the right field corner. Three batters later with two outs, Reyes struck a sinking liner to center. Taking a step back first, Starling charged and went into full extension but the ball barley ticked off his glove, tying the game back up at five.
Trading zeroes in the bottom of the sixth and top of the seventh, the Royals managed to take the lead for the third time on the evening in the home half of the seventh. Skying a high fly ball to left, Martín Maldonado broke the tie with a solo shot that landed just beyond the reach of Stewart at the wall. Moments later, Kansas City added an insurance run on a dropped third strike, making it 7-5. In the final innings, Jake Diekman worked a nine-pitch scoreless eighth, Soler belted his 24th home run of the year, and Ian Kennedy slammed the door with a breezy ninth.
Despite an 0-3 night from Starling, the Royals started their second half on the right foot, claiming their 31st victory of the season. Tomorrow, Brad Keller will toe the slab. Matthew Boyd will go for Detroit. First pitch is at 6:15 CT.