Tigers stun Royals with back-to-back homers to win in ninth

Detroit News

Detroit — The Tigers were dead in the water. No hits since the fifth inning.

Then, boom boom. Victor Reyes and Riley Greene hit back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the ninth and the Tigers escaped with a 4-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals Saturday at Comerica Park.

Before that, the only intensity came from the still smoldering feud between Tigers shortstop Javier Báez and Royals reliever Amir Garrett.

The two have had a running feud since 2017, one that escalated last July when Báez, then playing for the Cubs, hit a walk-off homer against Garrett, then with the Reds. Báez was yapping as he walked into the batter’s box, yapping after he made contact and then took his sweet time enjoying the moment circling the bases.

The two didn’t even face each other Saturday, but Báez was on deck in the sixth when Garrett struck out Riley Greene, getting a called strike from home plate umpire CB Bucknor on a pitch that was several inches below the strike zone.

Báez had words for Garrett as he was walking off the mound and Garrett fired back.

Alas, nothing else came of it. The Royals changed pitchers before Báez came to bat in the seventh. Báez, who would end the day going 0-for-3, struck out for the second time in the game and flung his bat and helmet in disgust when he got back to the dugout.

Nothing much came of the Tigers offense, either. Again. A reminder: The Royals came into the game with the highest ERA in the American League (4.91).

But, after scoring one run and going 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position Friday night, the Tigers offense flatlined again, this time against a left-handed starter who entered with a touchdown-sized ERA (7.45).

Royals’ lefty Kris Bubic hasn’t induced a lot of chase (18.5%) or swings and misses (18.4) this season. He came in with a high walk rate of 5.4 per nine innings and a hard-hit rate of 47.7% which is in the bottom 6 percentile in baseball.

He’d been tagged for 16 runs in his previous five starts covering 20 1/3 innings.

It was a pitcher you’d expect the Tigers to do damage against.

BOX SCORE: Tigers 4, Royals 3

They didn’t do nearly enough. They chased him out of the game with two outs in the fifth but only managed two runs.

Greene scored both of those runs. He led off the bottom of the first with a 413-foot triple to the base of the wall in center field and scored on a sacrifice fly by Báez.

In the fifth he walked, went to third on a two-out single by Miguel Cabrera and scored on a single by Eric Haase.

Royals’ reliever Jose Cuas ended the fifth inning. With Cabrera on second base, Willi Castro hit a hard ground ball up the middle. Shortstop Bobby Witt, Jr., made a diving stop and threw Castro out from his knees.

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As unfulfilling as the Tigers’ at-bats were against Bubic, they were still very much in the game. That thanks to rookie right-hander Beau Brieske who fought through some stressful early innings and ended up grinding out six innings and earning a quality start.

His command was spotty in the first three innings. He’d walked three batters in just three of his first 12 starts. On Saturday, he walked three in the first three innings — two in a two-run, 27-pitch first inning.

After Brieske walked Vinnie Pasquantino to load the bases, Hunter Dozier hit a first-pitch fastball into the corner in left for a two-run double.

He got some defensive help in the second and third innings. Right fielder Willi Castro made a superb sliding catch to rob Edward Olivares of a hit leading off the second inning. And with two on and one out in the third, Jeimer Candelario chased a foul pop-up to the netting down the third-base line, leaping up and into it to catch the ball.

After Brieske gave up a run on three hits in the fourth — an RBI single by Whit Merrifield — he finished his outing with eight straight outs.

Relievers Alex Lange, Andrew Chafin and Joe Jimenez would extend that to 17 straight outs. Chafin struck out the side in the eighth. He and Lange combined for five straight punch-outs.

Twitter: @cmccosky

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