Spencer Torkelson exits, Tigers’ bats struggle again in 3-1 loss to Royals

Detroit News

Detroit – First things first.

Tigers rookie Spencer Torkelson was hit in the side of the head with an 88-mph changeup from starter Brad Keller in the seventh inning of the Tigers’ 3-1 loss to the Royals Friday night.

And in what might pass as the only good news for the home team on this night, it appears he’s going to be fine. He was lobbying to stay in the game, but head athletic trainer Doug Teter didn’t waver and took him inside for tests.

“He tested no concussion,” manager AJ Hinch said. “We’re evaluating him overnight and he won’t start tomorrow. But I am sure he will be available if it continues how it is now. It was scary.”

The earflap on his helmet seemed to absorb most of the contract.

“Luckily he had that new guard that players are wearing,” Hinch said. “It covers the beginning of his chin and his shoulder pushed it up protecting his face.”

Torkelson wasn’t made available to the media afterward, but the side of his face was red and slightly swollen.

“Tork thought it hit him in the face, as well,” Hinch said. “The helmet was coming off and the guard hit him in the face. We weren’t going to take any chances.”

The game itself was an exercise in frustration and failed opportunities for the Tigers. They were 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

“It’s tough for everybody,” said veteran right-hander Michael Pineda, who went five innings in his first start since May 15. “We’re here to win the game. For me, I’m trying to give some good energy. I don’t think it was frustrating like that. But the guys want to do their job. Everybody just wants to do their job.

BOX SCORE: Royals 3, Tigers 1

“Sometimes we don’t have the best success in the game. But we are trying to do everything we can to be better.”

Baez, who struck out with a runner at second and nobody out in the fourth, came to bat with two on and nobody out in the sixth against Keller. He got a hanging slider on the first pitch but missed it, fouled it back.

He shook his head, said something to catcher MJ Melendez and slammed his bat on the ground. You don’t get many cookies in this game. Can’t miss them.

Next pitch, Baez hoisted a weak fly ball to center. The rally died there, as Keller struck out Miguel Cabrera and got Harold Castro to line to shortstop.

The Tigers put the first two runners on in the seventh inning, too. Keller, fading, walked Robbie Grossman and then beaned Torkelson.

For the third time in the game they had a runner at second base with no outs. And for the third time they failed to advance him.

More: Tigers option Faedo to clear space for Pineda; no movement with Eduarado Rodriguez

Right-handed reliever Taylor Clarke got Jonathan Schoop to pop out to second. Pinch-hitter Victor Reyes tapped back to the pitcher and Riley Greene, hitting leadoff for the Tigers, struck out on swinging through three changeups.

“We did a good job of putting pressure on them but we couldn’t get the big hit,” Hinch said. “It’s frustrating especially because we gave ourselves plenty of opportunities.”

Baez, Cabrera and Harold Castro — Nos. 3-4-5 in the order — were a combined 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

“Javy has been as hot as anybody,” Hinch said. “We want those guys to drive the ball. There’s no going base to base. We had a hard time moving runners around in general tonight.

“But give the middle of the order as many chances as possible and you’re going to feel good about that.”

They avoided their 11th shutout in the ninth, Eric Haase plating Jeimer Candelario with a sacrifice fly. Neither of those players started the game.

The Tigers had the tying runs on base with two outs, but Royals right-hander Scott Barlow got Willi Castro to ground out to end the game.

Pineda cruised through the first two innings in 19 pitches. Encouraging considering it was his first start since May 15, spending six weeks mending a broken finger on his pitching hand.

Turns out, the Royals were just measuring him. And when they struck, they struck hard and swift.

More: Tigers face sink-or-swim stretch of games heading into All-Star break

A double by Whit Merrifield and a single by Andrew Benintendi drew first blood in the third inning. In the fourth, rookie Vinnie Pasquantino and Hunter Dozier hit back-to-back home runs. It was rookie Pasquantino’s first big-league homer and the ball left his bat with an exit velocity of 113 mph.

Pineda gave up four hits with exit velos of 100 mph or better. Four others were hit 95 mph or better. But hard contact aside (18 balls in play with an average exit velo of 92 mph), he completed five innings — something he hadn’t done in his rehab starts.

“I feel happy to be back and pitching,” Pineda said. “My slider wasn’t very sharp. It wasn’t my slider. That’s my pitch for getting swings and misses but tonight it wasn’t very sharp. I need to continue to working and get better.”

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

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