Javier Báez’s three-run double in 10th lifts Detroit Tigers to 8-5 win over Royals

Detroit Free Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals traded jabs multiple times in Monday’s series opener at Kauffman Stadium.

The Tigers punched first from the onset of the game, only for the Royals to punch back almost immediately, and when the Tigers answered, the Royals didn’t wait too long for their counter attack. A back-and-forth melee between the American League Central opponents ended in the 10th inning.

Javier Báez cleared the bases loaded and drove in three runs with a one-out double to left field off Scott Barlow’s first-pitch fastball in the top of the 10th, and right-handed reliever José Cisnero stranded two runners to slam the door on the Royals in the bottom of the 10th.

The Tigers won, 8-5.

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The Tigers (21-24) struggled to get the key hit in the critical situations in the late innings until Báez’s clutch double. Detroit finished 3-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 runners on base.

A perfect example: The Tigers loaded bases in the bottom of the sixth inning, thanks to walks from Zack Short, Zach McKinstry and Spencer Torkelson. But Andy Ibáñez — a right-handed hitter who entered Monday in an 0-for-20 slump — grounded into a force out against righty reliever Jose Cuas and stranded the runners.

Earlier in the game, Ibáñez replaced left-handed hitter Nick Maton as a pinch-hitter to face lefty reliever Josh Taylor with two outs and a runner on first base in the fourth inning. He struck out swinging.

In the seventh inning, Royals center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. robbed Short of an extra-base hit, which would have scored the runner from third base, with an incredible catch in right-center field. He also robbed Torkelson of extra bases (and the Tigers of at least one run) in the second inning with a superb catch in right-center field.

Matt Vierling finished 3-for-4 with four RBIs, a home run, a walk and a strikeout. He drew the walk in the top of the ninth inning against Barlow. With two outs, though, Eric Haase struck out swinging to strand Vierling at first base.

Right-handed reliever Alex Lange, the de facto closer, took the mound for the Tigers in the bottom of the ninth inning for his second inning of work. He walked the first batter but retired the next three to send the game to extra innings, tied 5-5.

Lange threw 28 pitches in two scoreless innings.

In the top of the 10th, Haase started at second base as the free runner in extra innings. Short (walk) and Greene (single) reached safely to load the bases for Báez in the biggest moment of the game.

And he delivered.

First five for Tigers

For some reason, Royals right-hander Brady Singer — the 2018 No. 18 overall pick — hasn’t been the same pitcher compared to last season. Opponents are hitting him harder and more often than almost any other pitcher.

The Tigers followed the trend.

In the first inning, the Tigers scored three runs on three singles and two walks. Akil Baddoo worked a bases-loaded walk, while Vierling delivered a two-run single off Singer’s slider below the strike zone. The plate appearances from Baddoo and Vierling occurred with two outs in the inning.

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After the Royals responded in the bottom of the first inning, tying the game at three runs apiece, the Tigers struck again in the third inning and took a 5-3 lead. Vierling hammered a hanging slider from Singer 401 feet for a two-run home run to left-center field.

It was Vierling’s fourth homer of the season and his second homer in four games.

In the fourth, the Tigers chased Singer from his 10th start of the season. The 23-year-old allowed five runs on seven hits and four walks with three strikeouts, throwing 49 of 87 pitches for strikes.

Singer has a 7.48 ERA this season.

The Tigers forced him to throw 37 pitches in the first inning.

First five for Royals

The Royals responded to the Tigers’ 3-0 advantage with back-to-back home runs in the first inning from Vinnie Pasquantino and Salvador Perez against right-hander Michael Lorenzen.

The two-run blast from Pasquantino (off a changeup) and the solo shot from Perez (off a slider) tied the game, 3-3. In his past three starts, Lorenzen allowed just two runs across 20 innings for a 0.90 ERA.

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Lorenzen settled in and retired the next 11 of 12 batters he faced while erasing a walk with a double play. Everything changed in the fifth inning, when Nicky Lopez tagged a changeup at the bottom of the zone for a triple to the gap in right-center field.

Bradley, a light-hitting defense-first player, couldn’t catch up to consecutive fastballs, but for some reason, Lorenzen went to his slider. He put the ball on the outside part of the plate, and Bradley launched his first home run of the season.

The two-run homer evened the score again, 5-5.

Lorenzen allowed five runs on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts in 5⅔ innings, throwing 58 of 85 pitches for strikes. The 31-year-old generated 12 whiffs with three fastballs, five sliders, three changeups and one sweeper.

He also recorded 16 called strikes.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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