Kansas City, Mo. — Royals first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino has his own unique brand of déjà vu. It only happens when he’s batting against Michael Pineda.
Pasquantino has hit two home runs in his young big-league career.
The first was on July 1 at Comerica Park. It came leading off the fourth inning on the first pitch from Pineda.
The other came Monday, leading off the fourth inning on the first pitch from Pineda.
Pasquantino wasn’t done. He ripped an RBI single off Pineda in the bottom of the sixth inning, breaking a 1-1 tie and sending the Royals to a 3-1 win over the Tigers in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Kauffman Stadium.
“It’s baseball,” Pineda said afterward. “I don’t want that, but I tried to execute my fastball and he got it. That’s one of the pitches I missed today.”
The Tigers had tied the game in the sixth inning, finally scoring a run against Royals right-hander Brad Keller. Riley Greene led off with a single, went to second on a ground out and to third on a single by Harold Castro.
He scored on a wild pitch-strikeout by Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera whiffed on a pitch that hit on the plate and bounced to the backstop.
It was the first run the Tigers scored off Keller in 11 innings. And the last one on this day.
“We had four hits and one run,” manager AJ Hinch said. “We didn’t put up as much offense as we’d hoped. You’re not going to win a game with that.”
Of Keller’s 91 pitches, 80 were four-seam fastballs and sliders. He gave up just three singles and a walk. He struck out eight and got 14 swings-and-misses and 15 called strikes with those two pitches.
“They were showing four-seamer on the board but he was definitely cutting it pretty good,” said Greene, who had two of the Tigers’ four hits. “My first at-bat (called out on strikes) I just missed pitches. I got good pitches to hit and missed them. I took that last on the edge. I probably could’ve hit it but I didn’t swing.”
Greene said he went back and reviewed that first at-bat and made an adjustment.
“Just try to get on top of the baseball,” he said. “I watched the video and I was way under it.”
Greene, who had battled through a 1-for-16 stretch, singled his last two times up.
“Riley’s been good,” Hinch said. “He goes 0-for-4, 0-for-8 and we start wondering what’s going on. Nothing is going on. He’s just learning these pitchers and fighting through his first time through the league.”
Greene, for the first time since being called up to the big leagues, was not in the starting lineup for Game 2, ending a string of 22 starts.
“But I know he’s on the bench if I need him,” Hinch said.
The Royals’ third run came courtesy of a throwing error by shortstop Javier Baez. With the bases loaded and two outs, and one run in already in the sixth, reliever Andrew Chafin got catcher Cam Gallagher to hit a routine ground ball to Baez.
Baez initially came up looking to get the force at second, but the runner, Edward Olivares, was already at the bag. Baez didn’t have time then to reset and threw flat-footed to first. Spencer Torkelson, who has scooped Baez’s throws out of the dirt all season, couldn’t save this one.
The temperature at game time was 93 degrees with the heat index over 100. Greene, who is from Florida, said it was difficult to focus at times.
“You’ve got to get locked in when it’s hot like that,” he said. “I told somebody on the bench, ‘The sun is playing with my head.’ I had to remind myself what’s going on. But we’re on a baseball field playing baseball at the highest level. I can’t complain.”
Neither would Pineda, even at 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds.
“I’m from Dominican,” he said, laughing. “It’s a little hot weather but we’ve been in this situation before. We know we have to save energy and compete. I’m not thinking about the weather. Everybody has to pitch and everybody has to play in the same weather.
“I don’t focus on that. I focus on the game.”