Royals 5, Tigers 2: Death by paper cuts

Bless You Boys

A day after Miguel Cabrera’s 40th career stolen base shocked the baseball world, the Tigers went for the four-game series split on a sultry summer afternoon in Kansas City. Alas, it was not to be, as the Royals ended up victorious with a 5-2 win, mostly because of a lousy fourth inning in which pretty much everything that could’ve gone wrong, went wrong.

Tarik Skubal faced Brady Singer in a “Battle of Dudes Born in 1996.” (Shoot, I was well into the university that year. Yikes.) Skubal had a run of five starts from early June through early July in which he gave up a run per inning and the walks ballooned, but his 2021 habit of giving up home runs willy-nilly seems to have been kept under control. His opponents’ BABIP during that stretch was almost .370, so there was an element of bad luck there as well. His previous start before today, against the White Sox, was better, only giving up a pair of runs in six innings.

Singer’s workload has been pretty carefully managed; he started the year in the bullpen, then moved to the rotation in May. He’s only touched 100 pitches once, in his previous start against the Cleves, in which he scattered six hits across seven innings. In eight career starts against Detroit going back to 2020, he’s been superb, with an ERA a tick below 3, a 4-0 record, and over a strikeout per inning. He uses mostly sinkers and sliders, and occasionally mixes in a changeup.

Riley Greene punched the first pitch into the game into left field for a single, and Victor Reyes served a double into right; Javier Báez walked to load the bases with none out. Unfortunately, a Harold Castro sacrifice fly to left to score Greene was the only run Detroit managed to squeeze out of Singer, which has to be a disappointment.

Skubal looked great early on — through three innings he only threw 36 pitches and didn’t allow much hard contact, even touching 100 mph with his fastball on a strikeout of MJ Melendez to end the third, the fastest pitch of his career.

The normally sure-handed Alex Avila, doing color commentary with Dan Dickerson on the radio broadcast, was charged (by me) with an unofficial error on a Jonathan Schoop foul ball that went right into the booth… which Avila reached out to grab, but it bounced off his hands.

Schoop continued the ridiculousness by hitting a dribbler exactly up the middle, bouncing the hit off the second-base bag. Harold Castro singled, then Jeimer Candelario did the same; Schoop tried to score, and nearly did with a nifty swim-move slide, but Melendez’s tag barely grazed Schoop for the out at home.

The bottom of the fourth brought heavy damage, though. A leadoff single to left, then a dribbler that Skubal couldn’t handle cleanly, put runners on first and second with none out. Emmanuel Rivera doubled to the left-field corner to tie the game at one apiece, and an infield single to shortstop loaded the bases with one out, as Báez lunged to tag the runner just off second but missed. Edward Olivares hit a ground ball to Schoop at second that took a funny hop and clanked off his glove into right field, scoring two runs and putting the Royals up 3-1. An infield single to first which Torkelson fielded and threw to Skubal covering first didn’t quite get Kyle Isbel (even upon review, I thought he was out), and the inning just got weirder. A sacrifice fly pushed Kansas City’s lead to 4-1 as the Tigers were forced to get about five outs. “Death by paper cuts,” indeed.

Bobby Witt Jr. singled to lead off the fifth, and with one out Hunter Dozier smoked a line drive to center, just beyond Greene’s glove, off the wall; Witt scored and Dozier ended up on third, with the score now 5-1.

The Tigers managed to load the bases again in the sixth with one out, as Singer appeared to lose his command a bit. Would the Tigers cash in on this opportunity to get back in the game?

…what, are ya new here? Of course not! Spencer Torkelson and Akil Baddoo both struck out on nasty sliders off the plate. Ladies and gentlemen, behold: your 2022 Detroit Tigers.

In the top of the seventh, the viewing public was deprived yet again of another Amir Garrett/Javier Báez showdown, as Garrett was pulled just as Báez was coming to the plate. That didn’t stop them from chirping at each other as Garrett walked to the dugout, though. Báez got the last laugh, though, as Garrett’s replacement, Wyatt Mills, hung a slider which was bashed for a double off the left-field wall, driving in Robbie Grossman and making it a 5-2 game.

Drew Carlton took over for Skubal in the seventh, and aside from that inning horribilis in the fourth, Skubal was actually pretty good. Four of his five runs allowed go into the books as being earned, but honestly, that should be down to about two. Carlton also pitched the eighth without incident.

The Royals brought out long-haired ruffian Scott Barlow for the save in the ninth. (I view everyone without a high-and-tight crew cut as a long-haired ruffian, for the record.) Greene reached base on the ol’ strikeout/wild pitch combination, but a Báez strikeout — on another third-strike that eluded the catcher, but this time Melendez was able to throw cleanly to first — ended the proceedings.

Numbers and Whatnot

  • Last year against Brady Singer, Akil Baddoo was 4-for-7 with three RBI. Today, well, not so much.
  • Don’t look now, but Jonathan Schoop came into today’s game with a ten-game hitting streak, starting with the doubleheader win on July 4 against Cleveland. In that time, in 41 plate appearances, his slash line was .395/.439/.447 for a .886 OPS. Mind you, his BABIP during that stretch was a whopping .429, but it’s better to be lucky than good, right? He extended that hitting streak with a single today, as you no doubt read above.
  • Coming into today’s game, Javier Báez was tied for the major-league lead in extra-base hits since June 16th, with 15. He got another one today. Neat.
  • Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo “got the ziggy” today. According to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. earlier this season, last year was the trailer and this year is the movie — and lately that movie has turned into The Room. Yiiikes.
  • Speaking of Toronto, the Royals are headed there for their next series… but many players, including several starting pitchers, won’t be allowed into the country. Dan Dickerson speculated it could be roughly half their team. Choices have consequences, folks!
  • Happy birthday to Sir Patrick Stewart, Ernő Rubik (yes, that one), Ken Jeong, and Canadian R&B singer-songwriter Deborah Cox.

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