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Santana’s walk off home run leads Royals to series win

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Better late than never I guess?

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals
Salvador Perez singles in the fourth inning off of Casey Mize.
Peter Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

In the box score it may be Royals vs Tigers, but on the field each team honored the Negro Leagues by wearing Kansas City Monarchs and Detroit Stars jerseys.

Kris Bubic’s 18 innings scoreless streak ended early after a leadoff double by Robbie Grossman. And two batters later, Jeimer Candelario singled past the diving Ryan O’Hearn to give the Tigers 1-0 lead.

Bubic’s trouble continued with back-to-back singles by Miguel Cabrera and Eric Haase scoring Candelario. The next batter, Niko Goodrum, walked on four pitches loading the bases with 1 out. On the first pitch of the at bat, Bubic jammed Wilson Ramos resulting in a lazy pop-fly to O’Hearn in foul territory. Bubic then on three pitches punches out JaCoby Jones looking keeping the damage at 2-0.

A quick bottom of the first inning by former first-overall pick Casey Mize. Striking out Whit Merrifield, then getting soft, roll-over ground balls from Carlos Santana and Andrew Benintendi.

Bubic recovered in the second by shutting down the Tigers. The only baserunner was Grossman who Bubic seemed to be careful pitching to since he has been the Tigers’ hottest hitter of late.

Mize cruised through the Royals order for the first time, not allowing a baserunner and striking out four of the nine.

Bubic did not allow another runner until two outs in the fourth when he walked the Tigers catcher Jake Rogers. However for the Tigers, Bubic then got the next man, Grossman, to fly out to center field to end the inning.

After a quick two outs of Merrifield and Santana in the fourth; Benintendi ended Mize’s perfect outing by working a two out walk. The next batter, Salvador Perez ended the no-hitter with a seeing-eye single up the middle. Unfortunately for the Royals, Benintendi was thrown out at third thanks to an incredible throw by Rogers ending their first scoring threat of the day. The Tigers led 2-0 after four innings.

Bubic put himself back in trouble due to lack of command in the fifth. Jonathan Schoop and Candelario both singled, bringing up the future hall-of-famer Cabrera. On a 2-0 count, Cabrera hit a hard ground ball to Nicky Lopez resulting in a 6-4-3 double play. Haase then ended the inning with another hard ground ball to Lopez stranding the runner at third base. Great job by Bubic to get out of the jam.

That fifth inning ended Bubic’s day with a line of 5 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 82 pitches (51 strikes). Definitely not his best performance but it is always impressive to see these young guys compete on the days that they clearly do not have their best stuff/command.

Tyler Zuber replaced Bubic. The right-hander walked Goodrum to lead off the sixth inning. Zuber then followed that walk with attacking Ramos, striking him out with a high 97 MPH fastball. Zuber then had Jones behind 0-2, then lost his command walking him. First and second with one out. Zuker buckled down, striking out Rogers and then ending the inning with a comebacker from Grossman.

The fireworks came for the Royals offense, even though it had nothing to do with the bats. With one out, Nicky Lopez was hit in the knee by the worst slider of the day from Mize. Merrifield was up to bat next.

On an awkward two-seam fastball inside, Whit seemed to start his swing but then got pelted in the fingers. In obvious pain, Whit was walking it off when he found out that the first base umpire, Adrian Johnson, said he attempted to swing; marking the pitch as a strike instead of a hit-by-pitch. While manager Mike Matheny was walking back to the dugout, he clearly said something to Johnson about the swing call. Johnson ejected Matheny from the game, which led to a much more animated interaction between the umpire and manager.

Merrifield continued the at-bat, which ended with a lazy fly ball to right. Mize then ended the inning with a strikeout against Santana.

In the top of the 7th, Schoop led off the inning with an opposite field double off of Scott Barlow who replaced Zuber on the mound. A few pitches later, a wild pitch moved Schoop to third with no outs. Like his teammates, Barlow focused up with runners in scoring position. With the infield in, Barlow got back-to-back ground balls to Lopez at shortstop. The first one, Schoop stayed put at third. However on the second ground ball, Schoop took his chance and was gunned out at home. Barlow then finished off the inning striking out Haase allowing zero runs.

After seven and a half innings, Tigers still led 2-0.

With a low pitch count, Mize came back out in the bottom of the 7th inning and got in trouble quickly. Benintendi and Perez each singled to get first and second with no outs. Kelvin Gutierrez failed on his attempt at sacrifice bunting to advance the runners. With corners in, Gutierrez hit a hard ground ball that ate up Tigers third baseman Candelario. Thanks to Perez’s lack of speed there was enough time to get him out at second but Benintendi and Gutierrez were safe at first and third. This ended Mize’s impressive performance.

After a ball in the dirt where Gutierrez advanced to second. Pinch hitter Hanser Alberto hit a sacrifice fly. Benintendi scored, but in the process the Royals made another mistake on the base paths as Gutierrez tried to advance to third and got thrown out. Ending the rally with the Royals only scoring one run.

Kyle Zimmer came in for the top of the 8th and shut down the Tigers. A great sign for the Royals bullpen moving forward. However, the Royals offense was shut down in the bottom half as well by reliever Gregory Soto.

Zimmer then came in and was shut down again in the top of the ninth. 2 innings no runs for the former first-rounder was a huge momentum changer going into the bottom of the 9th.

Former Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer came on to close for the Tigers.

The offensive fireworks really came in the bottom of the ninth. Whit led off with a single. Then Carlos Santana came up huge with a two-run walk off home run to right-center field.

The Royals are off tomorrow before they head to Tampa Bay to face the defending American League Champions on Tuesday.