Tigers ‘grind through’ the elements, batter Royals for third straight win

Detroit News

Kansas City, Mo. — Matt Manning’s pants and jersey were soaked. Rain was dripping off the bill of his cap. There wasn’t a dry spot on him. He couldn’t find a dry baseball. Even the balls he was getting from home plate umpire Chris Guccione were wet and slippery.

This game was bananas.

“It was pretty tough,” said Manning, who soldiered through 6⅓ innings as the Tigers beat the Royals, 8-4, in a weather-shortened, eight-inning game at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday.

“It was pouring pretty much from the second inning on. But I battled through. I’m pretty happy with the way mentally I was able to get through those weather conditions.”

BOX SCORE: Tigers 8, Royals 4

The game, originally scheduled for 6:10 p.m. Central, was moved back to 3:10 p.m. in hopes of avoiding the rainstorms that were barreling toward Missouri.

Didn’t exactly work out. The heavens opened just as Manning struck out Kyle Isbel to end the second inning and it continued to rain steadily through the fifth inning.

“They told us it was going to be messy all day,” manager AJ Hinch said. “That’s why we started early. But once we got to the fourth inning, everyone was gearing up to get to five innings and get an official game in.”

Playing conditions got downright dangerous in the bottom of the fourth. Manning was unable to keep his pitching hand dry. Earlier he nearly beaned Salvador Perez with a breaking ball that slipped out of his hands. Another breaking ball slipped and went to the backstop in the fourth inning, setting up the Royals’ second run.

With Guccione’s ball bag soaked, the ball boy had to run out dry, clean balls to Manning on the mound.

“At that point, I couldn’t throw a pitch,” Manning said. “I knew I was going to sail it. But once I got the towels it was OK. And then I changed pants before the fifth inning.”

Tigers third base coach Ramon Santiago ran some dry towels out to the mound.

“I was just trying to pound the zone and not overthrow,” said Manning, who allowed three hits and two earned runs in his 6⅓ innings. “It was also wet for them. He couldn’t even hold onto his bat. I thought if I could throw strikes and make them swing the bat, good things would probably happen.”

Royals’ Michael Massey literally could not grip his bat. He flung it over the Royals’ dugout on one swing and then with two strikes tried to bunt simply because he didn’t feel he could take a proper swing.

He fouled it off for strike three.

“We were just trying to get the game in,” said center fielder Riley Greene. “It’s pouring. People are letting go of bats because they’re slipping. It’s a tough position to be in. But we’ve got to get the game in and we were able to grind through it.”

The Tigers’ hitters had less trouble gripping bats or hitting the ball. They picked up where they left off Friday night when they scored 10 runs on 17 hits.

Rookie Kerry Carpenter jumped a 3-0 fastball from Royals starter Jonathan Heasley in the second inning and blasted it over the wall in right-center, his fourth home run in the month that he’s been in the big leagues.

“When I am seeing it well and my approach is really good, then I just pick out a spot to hunt,” he said. “And when it’s there, just let it go.”

Hinch said he gave Carpenter the green light to swing at the 3-0 pitch.

“Kerry has earned that by how he’s taken 3-0 swings before,” he said. “He knows the zone. We were in leverage and we kind of had them on their heels a little bit. So you can go into attack mode if you know the strike zone.”

The Tigers scored three more times in the third and four more in the fifth.

Akil Baddoo, the No. 9 hitter, walked twice and scored twice thanks to the productive at-bats of Victor Reyes and Javier Báez. Reyes tripled and single and knocked in three runs. Báez doubled and tripled and knocked in two.

Harold Castro had a pair of RBI singles.

“I’ve been saying this for months, just pass the baton,” Greene said. “Get it to the next guy. Even when we have good at-bats and we get it to 3-2, we battled and we made the pitcher throw seven or eight pitches. He’s bound to leave one over the plate for the next guy to bang.”

Rookie Spencer Torkelson, who has hit safely in five straight games, had a single and triple. The triple was just inches from being his seventh homer of the season and would have been a home run in every other park in the big leagues except this one.

“As soon as I hit it, I was like, ‘Damn, I think I got it,'” Torkelson said. “And then as I kept moving toward first base, I was like, ‘Oh no.’ (Left fielder MJ) Melendez is tracking it and tracking it and I’m like, ‘Oh god.’

“So then I definitely had to kick on the burners.”

Manning, for all his issues with the wetness, allowed just three hits, two of them by Perez.

“I thought he was more aggressive and that helped keep him in the zone,” Hinch said. “His focus got a little better as the game went on. Even though the circumstances were not ideal, he was able to keep his attention on the hitters.”

Guccione finally called for the tarp after the Tigers batted in the top of the eighth. An hour later, the game was called.

“After the fifth inning, all of a sudden, the sky got dry,” Hinch said. “The field was still a mess and then as the forecast got worse and worse, they pulled us off the field. Fortunately, we were ahead.”

If you are keeping score at home, that’s three straight wins for the Tigers.

“It’s awesome,” Carpenter said. “Leaving the park with a win is so much better than leaving with a loss. The energy is better and there is excitement — even this late in the year. It’s nice.”

cmccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

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