Miguel Cabrera nabs 3 hits as Detroit Tigers take down Kansas City Royals late in 4-2 win

Detroit Free Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Detroit Tigers right-hander Casey Mize worked in and out of trouble for nearly his entire night.

The 24-year-old grinded his way through five innings, departing from his second start of the season with the game tied. The Tigers’ offense sparked for two runs with two outs in the seventh inning, enough for a 4-2 win in Thursday’s series opener against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

The Tigers (3-4) benefitted from RBI singles off the bats of Victor Reyes and Austin Meadows in the seventh, though Eric Haase’s pinch-hit single kept the inning alive for the top of the order to deliver against left-handed reliever Jake Brentz.

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Designated hitter Miguel Cabrera finished 3-for-4, including two hits off starter Zack Greinke. The 20-year MLB veteran upped his career total to 2,994 hits, putting him six hits away from becoming the 33rd player in baseball history to reach 3,000 hits.

After Mize completed five innings, the Tigers received scoreless innings from relievers Joe Jimenez, Alex Lange, Michael Fulmer and Gregory Soto. Lange and Fulmer cruised past the top six batters in Kansas City’s lineup in the seventh and eighth innings.

Soto picked up his second save this season.

Eyes on the Mize

Mize allowed two runs on six hits and two walks with two strikeouts in five innings, throwing 53 of 88 pitches for strikes. He produced just four swings and missed: one each with his four-seam fastball, slider, splitter and curveball.

The Royals weren’t hammering the ball — producing an average 84.4 mph exit velocity — but they put the ball in play against Mize. Two defensive miscues hurt the 2018 No. 1 overall pick in the fourth inning.

Hunter Dozier tripled to center with one out in the inning; the ball had a 101.8 mph exit velocity and bounced off Akil Baddoo’s glove on the fly. It was the second hardest hit for K.C., behind Bobby Witt Jr.’s triple in the first inning.

The Royals ended up with two runners in scoring position for Michael A. Taylor, who grounded Mize’s 0-2 curveball down the line to third baseman Jeimer Candelario. Candelario should have made the routine play, but he bobbled the ball. His mistake — though ruled a single — gave the Royals their first run.

Two batters later, Whit Merrifield ripped an RBI single on Mize’s first-pitch slider to even the score at 2-all.

Before the damage, Mize escaped trouble in the first and second innings, also keeping the Royals at bay despite a two-out single in the third. He managed a perfect fifth inning on 13 pitches but didn’t return for the sixth.

Mize stranded two runners in scoring position in the second frame, making an excellent defensive play (force out at second base) for the first out, striking out Taylor with a slider for the second out and getting Nicky Lopez to ground to first base for the third out.

To go with Mize’s four whiffs, he chipped in 15 called strikes, including six four-seamers, four sliders and three splitters. His fastball averaged 93.4 mph, maxing out at 95.4 mph. He painted his fastest fastball on the outside edge in a 3-2 count against Witt, striking him out looking and ending the Royals’ two-run fourth inning.

Getting up early

The Tigers scored first, producing two runs in the second inning. They loaded the bases on back-to-back singles off Greinke from Jeimer Candelario and Cabrera, plus a walk from Baddoo.

Greinke plunked Spencer Torkelson with an 87.8 mph changeup. His inside pitch gave Torkelson a free pass to first base, plating Candelario for a 1-0 Tigers lead.

A sacrifice fly from Harold Castro scored Cabrera. The 38-year-old tagged up at third base. The throw from left fielder Andrew Benintendi beat Cabrera to the plate, but he flashed his veteran prowess by sliding around the tag for a 2-0 advantage.

He pumped his fist in celebration, then strutted, on his way back to the dugout.

After that, Greinke settled in.

The right-hander, himself a 19-year MLB veteran, completed 5⅓ innings, allowing two runs on five hits and one walk. He didn’t notch any strikeouts, but he kept the Tigers off-balance with his mix of changeups, curveballs and four-seam fastballs.

Austin Meadows singled off Greinke to open the sixth inning and advanced to second base on a wild pitch. Greinke retired Jonathan Schoop for the first out, and Royals manager Mike Matheny replaced him with righty reliever Collin Snider.

Snider struck out Jeimer Candelario but gave up an opposite-field single to Cabrera. On Cabrera’s single to right, Meadows was thrown out at home plate to end the inning.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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