It was not an auspicious start for the Boys in Blue. Carlos Hernández could not make it out of the third inning. He walked four batters and allowed five runs, four earned, on only two hits. In the third inning, he walked the bases loaded, and they all scored on a Miguel Cabrera sacrifice fly and a Jeimer Candelario three-run home run to dead center. The Tigers scored a sixth run in the fifth inning off of a combination of Richard Lovelady and Tyler Zuber.
Casey Mize, meanwhile, was mowing the Royals down pretty well. As he started the fifth inning he had allowed only a pair of hits and one walk. He had struck out five. Mize is supposed to be on a pitch or inning limit of some sort. Tigers manager A.J. Hinch decided to send him back out for the fifth even though by all accounts, he’d hit that limit. Naturally, that’s when things unraveled. The Royals 7-8-9 batters all reached with singles, and Nicky Lopez drove in the first run with his hit.
The best part about being a Royals fan who does not live in KC is that I get to watch all of the games on MLB.TV. This is a good thing because it means when the TV broadcast team is the abominable combination of Rex Hudler and Steve Physioc, I can listen to the radio broadcast while still watching the game. This was how I was watching as Salvador Perez came to the plate with two men on and two out. That means I got to hear Denny Matthews note that Perez was still looking for his first home run since the break when this happened:
As the tweet says, that trimmed the Tigers lead from 6-0 to 6-4, and hope began to creep into the hearts of optimistic Royals fans.
You’d be forgiven if that hope had died a sad, quiet death by the time reliever Kyle Funkhauser entered the game in the bottom of the seventh. Then he struck out Michael A. Taylor on three pitches. But Nicky Lopez was not going to go away tonight. He lined a single into left. Whit Merrifield thanked anyone who might have been listening that Casey Mize - who had struck him out twice and made him look foolish both times - had left the game; then he grounded a single into right. Carlos Santana worked the count full - because of course he did - and as we all wondered if he might load the bases for Salvy’s chance for another multi-RBI home run Funkhauser left a sinker in the middle of the plate.
It turns out that three-run homers are an excellent way to score a bunch of runs all at once.
And just like that, the Royals had erased a six-run deficit. But they weren’t done. Salvy hit another single, and Andrew Benintendi walked. Hinch called on left-handed reliever Ian Krol, and Royals manager Mike Matheny countered by pinch-hitting Hanser Alberto for Ryan O’Hearn. Alberto launched a flyball into right-center, and centerfielder Derek Hill couldn’t run it down. It turned into a two-run triple and gave the Royals some much-needed breathing room.
I wish I could say the drama ended there but Greg Holland gave up a two-run home run to Akil Baddoo and then walked a pair on eight pitches while trying to earn the save. It quickly became clear he wasn’t going to be able to get the final out. Unfortunately, it seems Scott Barlow and Kyle Zimmer were both unavailable tonight. That meant Matheny’s only option after Holland was to bring in Wade Davis and his 7.76 ERA to face Jeimer Candelario - the same guy who hit the three-run home run to blow the game open early on. Naturally, Davis struck him out to earn the save.
- Nicky Lopez continues to completely turn his career around; he had three hits, a walk, scored two runs, and drove in another.
- Hunter Dozier reached base twice more; he temporarily got his batting average back to .200 but finished the night at .199.
- The Royals had a scary night for team health; Nicky Lopez appeared to tweak his hamstring running the bases but stayed in the game. Jake Brentz did something that made trainer Nick Kenney fairly run to the mound but stayed in the game. Hunter Dozier fouled a ball off his foot so badly that it drove him to his knees before he finished the plate appearance by earning a walk and then left the game for a defensive substitution.
- Tyler Zuber pitched for the first time since being recalled and Domingo Tapia made his Royals debut. Both pitched scoreless innings with a strikeout.
- Wins continue to be a heck of a lot more fun to watch than losses, regardless of the team’s record.
- MLB needs to find more advertisers for MLB TV because at one point I had to watch a Jagermeister commercial three times in a row and at another, I had to watch it four times in a row - or the entire length of the commercial break.
- The Royals celebrated the career of Alex Gordon tonight. He wore the number 4. The win tonight was their fourth in a row. Coincidence? Yes. Yes it is.
The Royals will have a chance to go for the series sweep tomorrow. They will face left-hander Tarik Skubal (6-8 4.18 ERA.) He has made two starts and two relief appearances against the Royals and has never allowed fewer than two earned runs. The Royals will recall left-hander Daniel Lynch to make his fourth career start. Lynch was demoted after three poor starts earlier this year, and his time in AAA did not exactly go swimmingly; he has a 5.84 ERA in 12 games, 11 starts. The Royals will have to make a move to create room on the 26-man roster. My money is on cutting Jorge Soler after another crummy night for the big designated hitter.