KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City Royals rookie Vinnie Pasquantino has two home runs in his 14-game MLB career.
The Detroit Tigers have surrendered both.
Both homers came against veteran right-hander Michael Pineda in the fourth inning — the first homer July 1 at Comerica Park and the second Monday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium.
“I don’t want that, but I tried to execute my fastball, and he got it,” Pineda said. “That’s one of the pitches I missed today, so I tried to locate my fastball a little more away, because I know he’s going to swing at it. This is baseball.”
But Royals right-hander Brad Keller starred in Game 1 of Monday’s doubleheader and dominated across seven innings. The Tigers lost, 3-1, for their third straight defeat. Game 2 is scheduled for 8:10 p.m., with right-hander Alex Faedo starting for the Tigers against lefty Daniel Lynch.
“We have some more prep to do to try to get these guys going,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “We’ve done most of our work for this team coming into today, but we’ll get a little rest, take a shower, get cooled off a little bit, let the sun set and get out there and get a win.”
Until the sixth inning, the Tigers (36-50) were completely silenced by Keller. The 26-year-old entered Monday with a 4.37 ERA and an American League-leading nine losses in 16 starts.
Facing the Tigers, Keller completed seven innings. He allowed one run on three hits and a walk with eight strikeouts. Keller lowered his ERA to 4.15 and notched his second win against Detroit in July.
“We faced him 10 days ago and didn’t hit his fastball,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “He threw his breaking ball a little bit more today. He threw a few more strikes early, which is key for him. He’s got good stuff. It’s two times in two weeks where we’ve faced him and he’s pitched a little bit differently but had the same result.”
For the most part, Pineda held his own against Keller.
“He’s a great pitcher,” Pineda said. “I love to compete, and that’s what we tried to do. It was a great game, and I hope we can face each other again.”
Pineda has strong outing, despite loss
Pineda, who has a 3.58 ERA in eight starts, kept the Royals in check throughout the first of four games in the series.
The main source of damage was Pasquantino’s 400-foot solo homer over the right-field wall for Kansas City’s 1-0 lead in the fourth inning. The long ball marked the Royals’ second hit of the game and the first since Bobby Witt Jr.’s single in the first inning.
Pineda cruised in his third start since returning from the injured list. In the sixth inning, the Royals chased him with three consecutive singles and took advantage of a throwing error from shortstop Javier Báez.
A one-out single from Witt generated momentum for the Royals in the sixth inning. After Witt stole second base, Pasquantino continued to haunt Pineda by drilling an RBI single to left field for a 2-1 lead.
The next batter, Emmanuel Rivera, chipped in another single.
That forced Hinch to the bullpen.
“He was really good,” Hinch said. “I think he’ll be frustrated with the very end because of the base hits and things like that. But the one inning where they had a couple good at-bats in a row against him was the last inning he pitched. He battled out there.”
Left-handed reliever Andrew Chafin walked the first batter he faced, pinch-hitter Eduard Olivares, on four pitches to load the bases. He responded by striking out Kyle Isbel on three straight sliders for the second out.
His next pitch induced a ground ball from Cam Gallagher, but he reached safely — and Pasquantino scored — on Báez’s throwing error. His off-line throw pulled first baseman Spencer Torkelson from the bag.
“I think he had multiple options,” Hinch said. “Both are safe (options), if you just throw the ball. He made a mistake, but I’m not sure that’s where the game was decided. We had four hits and one run. We didn’t put up as much of an offensive day as we had hoped. You’re not going to win the game with that.”
Pineda allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits with two strikeouts across 5⅓ innings. He did not walk a batter and threw 77 pitches (51 strikes): 46 four-seam fastballs (60%), 19 changeups (25%) and 12 sliders (16%).
He recorded five swings and misses.
“I threw the ball good, but I know I can be better,” Pineda said. “I missed a couple pitches, but I threw the ball good.”
Keller holds Tigers at bay
The Tigers scored their only run in the sixth inning, when a wild pitch from Keller allowed Greene to score. Still, the wild pitch struck out Miguel Cabrera swinging for the second out.
Two of the Tigers’ three hits off Keller came in the sixth, with Greene opening the frame with a single and Harold Castro producing a one-out single to center field to put runners at the corners for Cabrera.
After Cabrera struck out, so did Jeimer Candelario.
“I was getting under the pitches,” Greene said. “I had to make an adjustment. I went back into the dugout, watched the video of my first AB and figured it out. I needed to get on top of the ball. I was way under it.”
Keller is known for his inability to throw strikes, and entering Monday, he had a 61.9% strike rate and 54.3% first-pitch strike rate, the worst mark among qualified pitchers.
In Game 1, Báez drew a seven-pitch walk in the third inning for the only free pass. Keller finished with a 73.6% strike rate (91 pitches, 67 strikes) and earned first pitch strikes against 18 of 26 batters for a 69.2% clip.
Keller recorded 15 swings and misses — six four-seam fastballs and eight sliders — while adding 16 called strikes.
Torkelson struck out swinging on a full-count slider for the third out in the second inning, stranding Willi Castro on second base. Castro had the first single off Keller and stole second.
Right-handed relievers Taylor Clarke and Scott Barlow kept the Tigers scoreless in the eighth and ninth innings.
Greene singled in the eighth and finished 2-for-4 with one strikeout.
“He’s been grinding quite a bit,” Hinch said. “He’s learning these pitchers and fighting through his first time through this league. He battles, and he’s going to stay in there. … I think we all want Riley up. He’ll get his first game off in (Game 2) of this doubleheader, but you never know. I’ll have him on the bench to hit.”
Next up: Royals
Matchup: Tigers (36-50 entering Monday night) at Kansas City (33-52).
First pitch: 8:10 p.m. Tuesday; Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri.
TV/radio: Bally Sports Detroit; WXYT-FM (97.1).
Probable pitchers: Tigers — RHP Beau Brieske (2-6, 4.16 ERA); Royals — LHP Kris Bubic (1-6, 6.84).
More online: Game 2 of Monday’s doubleheader ended after this edition went to print. Visit freep.com/sports for the game result.