Home runs doom Detroit Tigers in 9-8 loss to Kansas City Royals

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Tigers were on the right track entering the bottom of the fifth inning, carrying a 6-0 lead behind a three-run home run from Jeimer Candelario and a dominant start from rookie right-hander Casey Mize.

But the Royals scored four runs in the fifth inning and five runs in the seventh, sending the Tigers (47-53) to a 9-8 loss in the second of three games at Kauffman Stadium. In Friday’s series opener, they were dealt a 5-3 loss.

Kansas City got three-run homers from Salvador Perez (his 22nd of the year) in the fifth against Mize and Carlos Santana (his 17th) in the seventh against Kyle Funkhouser.

“I think the outcome of the game is definitely different if I have a better fifth inning,” Mize said. “I’m really disappointed in that inning.”

The Tigers won their first seven games coming out of the All-Star break, sweeping a three-game series with the Minnesota Twins and a four-game set with the Texas Rangers. Since then, they’ve lost two in a row against the Royals. Their last win on the road came in Texas against the Rangers on July 7.

“It’s a loss, and we got to get collected and ready to play tomorrow,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “It’s a bad loss. It’s a tough loss. However you want to describe it. The clock is going to strike midnight eventually, and we’re going to get to the next day. Our guys will be ready to play.”

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In the ninth, Akil Baddoo hit a two-run homer with one out to cut the deficit to 9-8 after pinch-hitter Eric Haase opened the inning with a double. Jonathan Schoop grounded out to shortstop, but Robbie Grossman kept the comeback alive by drawing a four-pitch walk.

The Royals stuck with reliever Greg Holland to face Miguel Cabrera with two outs. Cabrera, serving as the game-winning run, walked on four pitches. Finally, after Holland missed on eight pitches in a row, he was replaced by Wade Davis with Candelario stepping to the plate.

Candelario struck out swinging to end the game.

“It’s always tough losing,” Candelario said. “We are a team that never gives up. We are always working hard as a team, and it’s a battle every single day. We’re always expecting to win. It was a tough one. Just turn the page and come tomorrow expecting to have a nice win.”

After Mize was chased at 4⅔ innings by Perez’s blast, left-handed reliever Daniel Norris entered. He only needed six pitches to retire the lone batter he faced to complete the fifth inning. Right-hander Joe Jimenez posted a perfect sixth, but Funkhouser blew the lead in the seventh.

One-out singles from Nicky Lopez and Whit Merrifield set the table for Santana. He drew a full count from Funkhouser, then hammered a two-seam fastball to right field for the Royals’ first lead of the game at 7-6.

Later in the seventh, Hanser Alberto smacked a two-run triple against lefty Ian Krol. Both scores were charged to Funkhouser, who conceded five runs on four hits and one walk while getting just two outs. Righty Buck Farmer pitched the eighth inning.

“He made some key mistakes and had some hitters that did damage to him,” Hinch said. “The one yanked fastball to Santana in an area where it’s tough to miss with him, and he hits the big homer. Things just kind of fell apart for him after we gave up the lead.”

One pitch spoils Mize’s start

Through four innings, Mize had complete control of the Royals.

The first hit against him — a single from Ryan O’Hearn in the second inning — could have been scored an error on Candelario, and he worked around the second hit — a one-out double from Nicky Lopez in the third — with consecutive strikeouts of Merrifield and Santana.

Merrifield struck out swinging twice on three pitches. Known for his plate discipline, Santana was also punched out twice. Mize finished with six strikeouts, generating six swings and misses with his slider, three with his two-seam fastball and a pair with his four-seam fastball.

“The slider was definitely the best pitch for me tonight,” Mize said. “I threw some good fastballs, too, but a lot of sliders. The feel for it was there from the get go, and I felt pretty good about it. They had some hard-hit balls on fastballs early that caught too much plate, but defensively, we made some really nice plays.”

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Riding a strong performance, Hinch sent Mize back to the mound for the fifth inning; Mize is building his innings back up after being under strict limits in three previous July starts.

Three singles in a row put the Royals on the scoreboard.

Mize bounced back with two straight outs: Merrifield struck out swinging and Santana flied out to left field. Three pitches later, Perez deposited a two-seamer 452 feet in left-center. His three-run homer cut the Tigers’ lead to 6-4 and forced Hinch to pull Mize from the game.

“It just kind of snowballed,” Mize said. “I haven’t really had an inning like that in a long time, where there was a little bit of a snowball effect there. … That was going to be my last inning of the game, definitely not how I envisioned that going.”

Over 4⅔ innings, Mize allowed four runs on six hits and one walk. He threw 52 of 79 pitches for strikes.

Big third inning

The Tigers scored first in the second inning, after Cabrera (single) and Candelario (walk) reached safely. Harold Castro grounded into what should have been a double play, but Hernandez — covering first base — missed the catch for an error.

On the play, Cabrera watched closely as he cruised into third base. Once the ball skipped past Hernandez, he dashed toward home plate and scored with ease for a 1-0 lead. But the key to the Tigers’ success came in the four-run fourth inning.

“We made him work and controlled the strike zone for the most part,” Hinch said about facing Hernandez. “Coming into the game, we knew that we needed to challenge him to throw strikes and be aggressive enough to hit a mistake, but not overly aggressive swinging at balls outside of the strike zone.”

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Derek Hill and Baddoo each drew full count walks to begin the fourth, and Grossman’s one-out walk loaded the bases. Cabrera drove a sacrifice fly to right field to go ahead by two runs. It was the 1,769th RBI of his career, snapping a tie with David Ortiz for 20th place in MLB history.

And the Tigers couldn’t let Hernandez off the hook. Not after the 24-year-old rookie walked the bases loaded and, despite flashing glimpses of promise, couldn’t command any of his pitches. Candelario belted a changeup from Hernandez to straightaway center field, traveling 434 feet and over the wall for a three-run home run.

Candelario chased Hernandez and put the Tigers ahead by five runs.

Candelario’s home run was his seventh long ball this season and third since July 7. Since returning from the All-Star break July 17, the third baseman is hitting .345 (10-for-29) with three home runs, seven RBIs, six walks and four strikeouts.

Adding a run

In the fifth inning, the Tigers scored again.

Baddoo and Schoop notched consecutive singles to chase reliever Richard Lovelady. The slap single through the infield and into right field — extending Schoop’s hitting streak to 14 games — advanced Baddoo to third base.

Despite Grossman’s strikeout, Cabrera delivered his second sacrifice fly for a 6-0 lead.

“I hate it for our team,” Mize said about losing. “Our offensive production was stellar tonight. We played good defense as well. I just hate that I didn’t throw the ball better and put us in a better chance to win. We were up 6-0, and if I find a way to get (Perez) out, and it’s 6-1 after the fifth, I think we win the game. I’m really just disappointed in how I let the guys down because the offense did a tremendous job tonight.”

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Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter

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