The bats were hot for the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday in Kansas City.
The Tigers’ seventh-inning rally was enough to hold off the Royals, 6-5, and complete a three-game series.
The big blow in the seventh, after a leadoff walk by Niko Goodrum, came off the bat of Willi Castro, who launched a 3-2 breaking ball from Greg Holland to center field for a two-run home run to tie the game, 3-3. The ball traveled 421 feet.
“He’s getting some confidence at the plate and and starting to hunt the right pitches,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “The home run bat was a long at-bat and … they were teasing him a little bit with the breaking ball. He laid off of get to (3-2, and a) veteran pitcher makes a mistake and Willie made him pay.”
A wild pitch from another Royals reliever, Scott Barlow, allowed Robbie Grossman to run home, giving the Tigers a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
In the eighth, another wild pitch, this from Jake Brentz, opened the door for Goodrum to slide home, pushing the lead to two.
The offense backed up a solid effort from starting pitcher Tarik Skubal and some fine bullpen work, save for a leaky performance from Michael Fulmer in the ninth.
In the first four innings Skubal gave up three earned runs. It took seven pitches for Skubal to get out of the sixth, afterwards he would call it a night. He would retire with seven strikeouts and two walks.
“(Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal) are doing a great job of growing up in the big leagues and taking the responsibility and go with it,” Hinch said. “There’s going to be a day where Tariks not gonna come out in the 90s there he’s got plenty left in the tank.”
“They know that they own the responsibility giving this team a chance to win because they get the ball first. Both of those guys are built the right way and they’re responding accordingly.”
After allowing just a single in the first inning, Skubal gave up a leadoff homer in the second to Adalberto Mondesi, who hit a 95-mph fastball over center field to give the Royals their first lead of the series.
More trouble came in the third when, after a Carlos Santana single, Salvador Perez smashed a two-run home to left to give the Royals a 3-1 lead.
But Skubal avoided further damage the rest of the game. He stranded two runners after back-to-back singles in the fourth thanks to a ground ball forceout by Cam Gallagher and a Whit Merrifield strikeout. Then in the fifth, a two-out walk was erased by a groundout.
“I knew the change(up) that would be a huge pitch for me, especially against this lineup just they’re all right-handed,” Skubal said. “Just being able to expand the zone a little bit and work down and let you know the fastball play up later that was that was a big pitch for me going into this game, especially since my last time I didn’t have any feel for it.”
Skubal needed just six pitches to get through the sixth. In all, he allowed three runs on six hits and two walks while striking out seven.
Following a one-out walk by starting pitcher Brady Singer in the first inning, Akil Baddoo tried to steal second but was called out after a perfectly placed throw by Gallagher to Hanser Alberto in the first inning.
The Tigers opened the second with a Jonathan Schoop single and a Harold Castro double, but Nomar Mazara (groundout), Goodrum (strikeout) and Willi Castro (groundout) failed to get the Tigers on the scoreboard.
But that changed in the third. Baddoo’s first hit of the game was a two-out double that grazed the right-field foul line, and it was followed by an RBI double by Jeimer Candelario to center field tied the game, 1-1.
A triple by Mazara and a Goodrum walk were stalled by consecutive groundouts, stranding four runners in four innings.
The Tigers had 13 hits Wednesday and finished all three games in the series with double-digit hits.
“If you want to win, you got to do both. You got to play some defense,” Hinch said. “You’re not going to be perfect in all those areas. Our job is to play the entirety of the game. Winning culture comes with committing to doing those parts and when it all comes together. It’s a fun team. It’s a good team.”
Schoop led the Tigers on Wednesday with three singles, his fifth game with three hits on the season. Baddoo and Castro finished the game with two hits apiece; Candelario and Castro added one and two RBIs respectively.
“Everybody is here for a reason. We are really good hitters. We compete,” said Wilie Castro, who hit his seventh home run of the season. “We got to focus on the great games we’ve been having.”
What a relief
On Monday, the Tigers needed nine pitchers to defeat the Royals. They needed just four on Wednesday.
With runners on the corners, Salvador Perez hit into a 5-4-3 double play, helping Bryan Garcia escaped the seventh inning.
Jose Cisnero, a reliever with 3.41 ERA, finished the eighth with three quick outs on just pitches.
Fulmer, who entered the game 4-for-5 on save chances this season, then got the ball in the ninth.
After giving up a leadoff single to Hanser Alberto and a conversation with Rogers on the mound, Fulmer gave up an RBI double to Merrifield and a run-scoring single to center by Santana, shrinking the lead to one.
But Fulmer struck out Perez to end the game and the series, giving the Tigers something to celebrate as they head to California for a four-game series against the Angels, beginning Thursday.
Mia Berry is a sports reporting intern with the Free Press. Reach out via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.