DETROIT — The last time the Tigers won four consecutive games, they were over .500. That was shortly after the midway point of last year’s abbreviated season, when they won six a row to move to 17-16 and spark short-lived speculation at a run at the expanded postseason field. That streak included a three-game sweep of the Twins at Comerica Park, which was the last time the Tigers swept a series at home.
Nobody will be raising such hopes for the Tigers quite yet after Thursday’s 4-3 win completed a three-game sweep of the Royals. But Detroit’s fourth straight victory was a reminder that the Tigers can play effective, winning baseball when they’re on, something that seemed in question after they lost 18 of 21 following last month’s three-game sweep of the Astros.
The Tigers turned the tables on the Royals after Kansas City swept them in four games at Comerica Park a couple weeks ago. Here are a few key ways how Detroit changed its fortunes:
Situational hitting fuels opportunistic offense
The Tigers have stopped being reliant on home runs for their offense over the last week and a half. Against the Royals, they strung together smaller hits, pairing them with alert baserunning to create RBI situations. All four of their runs Thursday came in a second-inning rally built on four singles, a double and a sacrifice fly. Four were opposite-field hits from right-handed batters off Royals lefty Daniel Lynch in his third Major League start. Willi Castro singled in the first run, then went from first to third on JaCoby Jones’ single to set up an Akil Baddoo sacrifice fly.
Strong starts continue
Not only had Spencer Turnbull never beaten the Royals, he was winless in his career against the AL Central before tossing 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball Thursday. Add his outing to starts from Matthew Boyd and Casey Mize in the previous two games, and Tigers starters allowed just three runs on 13 hits over 18 1/3 innings this series, walking five and striking out 16.
Fulmer emerges as bullpen stopper
Gregory Soto had never pitched three consecutive days in his career until this series, and he didn’t handle it well Thursday, allowing a leadoff walk and two hits while struggling to finish off back-to-back hitters out of 0-2 counts. Once Salvador Perez put the tying run on base with an RBI single, manager A.J. Hinch went to his former starter, Michael Fulmer. He retired Jorge Soler — who tied Tuesday’s series opener with a bases-clearing double in a similar situation — and Andrew Benintendi for his second save.
As effective as Detroit’s starters have been recently, the Royals put up more offense against the Tigers’ bullpen, leaving Hinch something to think about as he sorts out his late-inning mix.