Royals 3, Tigers 1: Pineda returns but the offense squanders

Bless You Boys

The Tigers bullpen blanked the Royals for four innings, but the offense wasted way too many chances as they dropped the first of a three-game home set against the Royals by a score of 3-1.

Friday night marked the return of Michael Pineda to the Tigers’ rotation, and they sure do need him. With two rookie starters in the mix that require innings management, the club couldn’t go on much longer without some help. Pineda ultimately missed about six weeks since a comebacker fractured his finger back in mid-May.

Pineda was very Michael Pineda over the first two innings, allowing a single in each frame, but stranding the runners. The Tigers went quietly in the first, with Riley Greene making his debut in the leadoff spot.

In the second, Miguel Cabrera led off with a single through the right side to push his average over the .300 mark on the year. Harold Castro struck out, and Robbie Grossman grounded into a fielder’s choice of Cabrera at second. That left it to Spencer Torkelson, and the rookie first baseman served a single into center field. Unfortunately, with two outs Grossman got greedy trying to go first to third, and the throw from Michael Taylor in center to Nicky Lopez at third easily cut down Grossman to end the inning. Not great, Rob.

In the third, Lopez flew out, but Whit Merrifield doubled down the left field line, then stole third on a delayed steal. Andrew Benintendi ripped a single to right field, and Merrifield jogged home with the first run of the game. Witt flew out to right, and with little to lose, Benintendi tried to steal second but was cut down by a nice throw from Tucker Barnhart and the patented Javy Báez snap tag. The Tigers went 1-2-3 in the bottom half with Riley Greene bouncing into the shift for the third out.

Vinnie Paquantino greeted a Pineda fastball middle-in with a line drive home run just over the right field wall to open the fourth. 2-0 Royals. Hunter Dozier then took Pineda deep into the visitor’s bullpen on a fastball right down the middle. The usual precision was not in evidence for the veteran right-hander. 3-0 Royals.

Chris Fetter came out to settle Pineda down and remind him to use all his pitches. A better mix of changeups and curveballs followed. MJ Melendez grounded out but Michael Taylor turned on one and drilled it down the left field line for a double. Pineda finally got a strikeout, setting down Kyle Isbel with a good curveball, and Nicky Lopez grounded out to end the inning.

Willi Castro singled to start the bottom of the fourth and then stole second base. However Báez struck out, Miguel Cabrera grounded out, and Harold Castro flew out down the left field line to squander the chance.

Pineda looked to be settling into his outing in the fifth. Merrifield lined out to Willi Castro in right field for the first out, and Pineda then punched out Benintendi and Witt for a snappy inning, showing much better command. 5 IP, 3 ER, 7H, 0 BB, 3 SO.

Robbie Grossman struck out to start the bottom of the fifth, and Spencer Torkelson drove a 405-footer to center field for the second out. Seriously, forget the middle of the field, Spencer. It ain’t happening. Schoop followed with a line drive single to left center to bring up Tucker Barnhart with two outs, and he blooped one to shallow left that Lopez hauled in to end the inning.

Jason Foley took over for Detroit in the sixth. Pasquantino greeted him with a line shot off his right thigh on the first pitch he saw. Foley recovered, collected the ball and threw him out. Foley threw a couple pitches to make sure he was good to go, and the game resumed. Dozier followed with a chopper that Harold Castro, playing third, had to go into left field to collect and his spin throw went wide of first. Foley slipped on his first pitch to MJ Melendez, balking Dozier to second, and appeared to be struggling to plant and drive down the mound as he threw a couple balls wide of the mark. He managed to work threw it, as Melendez eventually flew out to left for the second out, and then punched out Taylor on a 97 mph two-seamer on the edge to turn the Royals away.

Riley Greene led off the bottom half, and after falling behind 1-2, he spanked a single through the right side. Willi Castro put together a good AB and drew a walk to get Báez to the plate as the tying run. The Tigers’ shortstop got a hanging slider down the middle first pitch and fouled it off. He was visibly and audibly furious with himself for missing that one, and then chased one down out of the zone and flew out to shallow center field. Miguel Cabrera swung over another slider down in a 3-2 count, and the Tigers needed some Harold Castro magic. They didn’t get it as Castro lined out to shortstop instead.

Tyler Alexander came on in the seventh and got two quick outs on a pair of hard hit balls to the outfield. He then walked Merrifield to bring up Benintendi. However, Alexander caught Merrifield leaning after throwing over twice in a row. He threw to Spencer Torkelson and the Tigers’ first baseman ran Merrifield down for the third out.

Brad Keller’s control collapsed a bit in the bottom half of the inning. Grossman led off with a walk, and then a 1-2 changeup rode up and in and hit Torkelson right on the left ear flap. He didn’t go down and was turning away just in time, but A.J. Hinch pulled him from the game so he could get checked out. Jeimer Candelario entered to pinch run, and Keller’s night was over as well.

Right-hander Taylor Clarke took over, facing Schoop with men on first and second and no outs. Schoop popped out on the very pitch he saw, which was just awesome to see. Hinch put Victor Reyes in to hit for Barnhart, and all he could do was ground out on a pitch in on his hands. The ball was so softly hit the only out was at first, so both runners advanced, and Riley Greene stepped to the dish. The rookie whiffed badly on a pair of good changeups away, then took one down in the dirt for a ball. Clarke went back to the changeup, and Greene, struggling not to pull off the ball, swung over that one as well, and the Tigers came up empty-handed yet again.

Alexander looked better in his second inning of work, racking up three quick outs, including a strikeout of Witt, to send it to the bottom of the eighth.

RIght-hander Jose Cuas took over facing Willi Castro to start things off. The right fielder drew a walk to give the Tigers another chance at a rally, but Báez, Cabrera, and Harold Castro all grounded out, the last of which came after Mike Matheny brought in lefty Scott Barlow against Castro.

Five times the Tigers had gotten the leadoff man in an inning on base, and zero to show for it. They were 0-for-11 with a runner in scoring position as well.

Will Vest has been a mess over the past two weeks after a really strong start, and Hunter Dozier greeted him in the ninth with a line drive single up the middle. Melendez whiffed on three pitches, flailing at a changeup away for strike three. He then got Taylor, a right-handed hitter, on a changeup down as well. Kyle Isbel followed with a two out single, but Nicky Lopez flew out to send it to the bottom of the ninth.

Robbie Grossman watched yet another poor strike three call for the first out. Too close to take might be the theme of he and Torkelson’s seasons to date. Candelario was then nicked on the left foot and took his base. Schoop followed with a single that moved Candy to third, and then Eric Haase lifted a high fly ball to left that got us all real excited for a moment, but it fell to Benintendi well short of the warning track. Candelario scored, and that left it up to Riley Greene. The rookie did his part, drawing a walk, but Willi Castro didn’t have the answer, grounding out to second base to end the game.

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