| The Detroit News
Kansas City, Mo. — This is how paper thin the difference between winning and losing a baseball game can be, especially on a night your offense is being shut down.
The pivotal play in the Kansas City Royals’ 3-2 victory over the Tigers at Kauffman Stadium Friday night was an uncontested stolen base.
The Royals were up 2-0 in the fifth inning when Adalberto Mondesi led off with a double against Tigers starter Spencer Turnbull. Mondesi, by the way, is 7-for-7 in these two games and he’d tripled in a run in the second.
He’d already stolen three bases in the series, too, so the Tigers were well aware that he might be on the move again.
Turnbull, though, also had to worry about Salvador Perez in the batter’s box, and he made his normal leg-kick delivery to the plate. Mondesi stole third without a throw. One batter later he scored what would end up the winning run on a sacrifice fly by Maikel Franco.
“You have to vary your moves and you have to slide-step,” interim manager Lloyd McClendon said afterward. “In fact, we had a slide-step in place (called from the dugout). He didn’t recognize it and he was 1.7 (seconds) to the plate.
“Which cost us that run.”
Turnbull, who was resilient through five innings, recognized the slide-step call, he just didn’t feel comfortable using it.
“I was quick a couple of times but I did not feel good using my slide-step today,” Turnbull said. “It’s something I need to work on. A couple of times I came out of my mechanics. I felt way more comfortable, stuff-wise, using my leg kick.
“I tried to sneak it in there to deliver a more effective pitch and they ended up stealing me blind a couple of times.”
The Tigers ended up scoring two runs in the seventh, but it was too little, too late.
“Turnbull had a couple of incidents but he threw the ball pretty well,” McClendon said. “I’m waiting on the point where he trusts his stuff because it’s pretty darn good. When he’s down in the zone, he’s tough to hit.
“No slide-step on a couple of guys who can run, but other than that, he gave us a chance to win.”
The Tigers were blocked for six innings by Royals starter Brad Keller. But when they gave the ball to lefty Danny Duffy in the seventh, they got a spark.
Harold Castro singled (his second hit of the night) and went to third on an opposite-field double to right by Niko Goodrum. A ground out by Brandon Dixon scored Castro.
With right-handed-hitting Eric Haase coming up, the Royals brought in righty Scott Barlow. Haase hit a fly to shallow center field and Goodrum scored on a close play at the plate.
Goodrum came up holding onto his hip.
“My belt buckle is pretty big and when I slid I kind of turned to avoid the tag,” Goodrum said. “I broke the belt and landed on the buckle.”
But that was it. The spark never ignited a sustained flame.
Even with closer Greg Holland unavailable, the Royals’ patchwork bullpen closed it out. Former starter Jakub Junis pitched a scoreless eighth and right-hander Jesse Hahn struck out Dixon and Haase to end the game.
Goodrum drew a one-out walk in the ninth and he was itching to steal second to get into scoring position. But he never got the chance — ironically, because Hahn did an effective job holding him close to first.
“I wanted to go,” Goodrum said. “He held the ball on the pitch I was going to go on and he disrupted my timing. I just never got a good chance after that.”
It was Turnbull’s final start of 2020 and it encapsulated the growth he’s made since last year. Despite being in trouble in four of his five innings but he kept things relatively under control.
“Yeah, I think I did as good a job as I could expect of myself,” Turnbull said. “It was frustrating at times but I made some pretty good pitches when I was in trouble.”
He finishes with a 3.97 ERA.
“A lot of positives,” Turnbull said. “I’m a competitor, so I don’t think I did as well I hoped I would. But I definitely made a lot of improvement. And I still have a lot of room to grow, room to get better overall.”