Kansas City, Mo. — Such a strange game.
Only up a run, but it sure seemed like they were in control going into the bottom of the fourth inning before things fell apart and the Tigers lost to the Royals for the third time in four games, 5-2 Wednesday at Kauffman Stadium.
They already had five hits and plenty of traffic on the bases against starter Brady Singer.
But mostly the secure feeling came from the fire coming out of lefty Tarik Skubal’s pitching hand. He concluded an 11-pitch third inning painting a 99.8-mph two-seamer on the outside edge to strike out MJ Melendez.
“That was the best fastball I’ve had in my life, honestly,” Skubal said.
True. It was the fastest pitch Skubal had ever thrown in the big leagues. He hit 99 mph earlier in that at-bat and through three innings had thrown 10 pitches 95-mph or better.
“I don’t know, I just felt really good,” said Skubal, whose fastball was sitting at 93 mph just a few starts ago. “I felt I was really synced up. Maybe it was the weather. It was hot so maybe my body was just naturally more loose.
I felt like I was executing my pitches. Just some unfortunate things happened.””
The bottom of the fourth inning was befuddling. The Royals scored four runs and had four hits, though only one of those hits left the infield.
“Just right spot, right spot, right spot,” Skubal said.
“Just bad luck,” catcher Tucker Barnhart said.
“The execution was rough,” manager AJ Hinch said.
All of the above.
With one out, Andrew Benintendi squibbed an opposite-field single inside the bag at third base. Hunter Dozier followed with a swinging bunt between the mound and first. Skubal tried to scoop it on the run toward first but missed it. It was scored a hit.
Emmanuel Rivera followed with an RBI double — the second hardest-hit ball of the inning.
Vinnie Pasquantino hit a ground ball that shortstop Javier Báez fielded at the bag at second. Hinch had pulled the infield in with runners at second and third and the play was to get the out at first and hold the runners.
Instead, Baez tried to make a tag on Rivera, who was lunging back to second. He missed and everybody was safe.
Edward Olivares hit a ground ball right at surehanded second baseman Jonathan Schoop. It was the hardest-hit ball of the inning, 110 mph off the bat, but it certainly had inning-ending double-play written all over it. Except Schoop booted it. Just his third error of the season.
Kyle Isbel was next, hitting a slow ground ball off the bag at first. Spencer Torkelson fielded it and threw to Skubal, who caught it on the run with his bare hand but missed the bag with his foot. Safe.
When the dust settled, 27 pitches were thrown to nine Royals hitters and the Tigers were in a 4-1 hole.
“We made a mess of the inning,” Hinch said. “Just one error but four miscues. It’s hard to win a game when you do that.”
It became a 5-1 hole in the fifth when Dozier blasted an RBI triple off the wall in center. Riley Greene gave valiant chase and crashed hard into the wall. His hat and sunglasses flew off on contact, but he was uninjured.
“Don’t question the effort,” Hinch said. “The effort was good. The execution was rough. These are plays that can be made. Some guys are trying to do too much and we were a little unlucky with the Schoop bounce.
“But at the end of the day, you either won or you lost. We lost.”
Skubal ended up covering six innings and striking out five. The average velocity on his two-seam and four-seam fastballs was 96 mph, up 1.2 mph on his season average.
“What am I going to do,” he said of the fourth inning mess. “I have no control over it, except the one I didn’t field to start the whole thing. It’s just baseball. There’s no point in getting frustrated.”
The Tigers were kicking themselves over some lost opportunities on offense, too. In six innings against Singer they managed only a run despite collecting seven hits and five walks.
“Everyone wants to execute every time they get a shot, but we didn’t,” Hinch said. “A couple of more runs in the early stages of the game might’ve been better for us.”
In the fourth, Schoop, Harold Castro and Jeimer Candelario hit consecutive singles to start the inning. Schoop, trying to score from second, was thrown out at the plate by right-fielder Olivares. Tough to make the first out of the inning at the plate.
We’re offering a great rate on digital subscriptions. Click here.
The Tigers loaded the bases with one out in the sixth. Singer gave up a hit to Baez and walked Castro and Candelario. But he struck out Torkeson and Akil Baddoo — both chasing pitches out of the strike zone.
Baddoo slammed his bat into the dirt — perfectly expressing the frustration of the day.
The only drama at the end of the game was provided by the on-going verbal spat between Báez and Royals reliever Amir Garrett. The two have had their issues dating to when Báez played for the Cubs and Garrett was with the Reds.
Garrett got the first two outs in the eighth inning after walking pinch-hitter Robbie Grossman. With Báez coming up, Royals manager Mike Matheny pulled Garrett, a lefty, in favor of right-handed, side-armer Wyatt Mills.
It was a move he had planned from the start of the inning.
But Garrett was furious and the crowd started to boo. Báez started chirping at Garrett as he was leaving the mound. Báez shook his head at him and gestured with his hand that he was all talk. Finally, crew chief Phil Cuzzy had to shout at Garrett to leave the field.
Báez ended up roping an RBI double into the corner in left, the run charged to Garrett.