For much of Monday night’s contest with the Kansas City Royals, the Tigers looked like they’d go the way of the series in Washington. They got out to two leads and lost them both, while stranding a ton of baserunners. But a huge bases-clearing knock from Javier Báez saved the day as the Tigers won 8-5 in ten innings.
Kansas City starter Brady Singer, the owner of a career 6-0 record and 2.44 ERA vs Detroit, looked much more like the Brady Singer of 2023 (7.09 ERA, 1.533 WHIP) as he faced the Tigers in the top of the first inning. Zach McKinstry lead off with a single, and after a strikeout from Riley Greene, Javier Báez hit the softest of pop-ups just over the outstretched hand of Vinnie Pasquantino to reach on a single. Spencer Torkelson followed with a walk and the Tigers had them loaded up with one out. It seemed like the rally might fizzle out like so many innings in Washington did after Nick Maton popped out, but Akil Baddoo drew a walk to force in a run, and then Matt Vierling followed with a groundball single to score two more runs. Singer retired Eric Haase but after wearing on him with a 37-pitch inning, the Tigers were feeling pretty good.
Unfortunately, those good feelings didn’t last very long. Michael Lorenzen took the mound facing a lefty-loaded lineup, which looked like a good matchup given his .551 OPS against in 2023. The Royals were waiting in ambush as Nick Pratto lead off with a line drive single and Vinnie Pasquantino smashed a center-cut fastball on a line drive homer run to score two runs in eight pitches. Salvador Perez took the second pitch he saw and deposited it over the center field fence and just like that, in ten pitches, the Tiger’s lead was gone. MJ Melendez made a bid for a home run of his own but Vierling was able to run it down. Lorenzen breathed a sigh of relief and got the next two batters to put weak balls in play to end the frame.
The Tigers seemed like they might let Singer off the hook and settle into a groove as Zack Short and McKinstry struck out to start the inning, but Greene worked a walk and Báez called upon the BABIP gods again and was rewarded with an infield hit as Singer couldn’t grab a slow dribbler. Torkelson then squared up a drive (104 MPH exit velocity, 369ft) for a sure double but Jackie Bradley Jr got a quick break and stretched out to just snare the ball in the right center field gap and save two runs. Fortunately, Lorenzen was able to settle into a groove in the bottom half and work around a leadoff walk with a double play and a strikeout.
Akil Baddoo roped a one-out line drive single in the top of the third inning, then rode home as Matt Vierling pulled a ball deep and over the left field fence to give the Tigers a 5-3 lead which you can see below, though you should mute the audio as Matt Shepherd calls the home run with the excitement of a tranquilized sloth. Singer would eventually get out of the inning but not before his pitch count approached 80 pitches. Dan Dickerson’s call is also provided for sanity.
Come on Shep. It’s been five years. Can you work on the home run calls? Please?
Lorenzen continued to cruise in the bottom of the third inning, retiring the side in order. The Tigers finally knocked Singer out of the game at 87 pitches on a two-out Torkelson walk in the fourth inning. His final line, definitely not the line of the Brady Singer that tormented the Tigers of years past: 87 pitches, 3.2 innings pitched, 7 hits, 5 earned runs, 4 walks, 3 strikeouts. The Royals brought in the lefty Josh Taylor which prompted Hinch to pinch-hit Andy Ibañez for Maton, but he struck out to end the inning.
The Royals and Tigers traded 1-2-3 innings into the bottom of the fifth when suddenly the Royals erupted for a leadoff triple by Nicky Lopez and then a game-tying home run from Bradley Jr. Lorenzen did settle in to get through the rest of the inning cleanly. In the top of the sixth, Amir Garrett came on and walked Short and McKinstry to start the inning. With Javier Báez waiting on deck, and everyone but Royals manager Matt Quatraro wanting to see some fireworks, after Greene struck out and fulfilled the three-batter minimum rule, Jose Cuas came on. Báez sadly popped out on the first pitch. Torkelson worked a walk to load the bases with two outs but Hinch stuck with Ibañez who grounded out weakly to third for the third out.
Lorenzen went back to work in the top of the sixth with his pitch count sitting at 72. He got Perez to fly out and walked Melendez. He got Michael Massey to ground out but Hinch popped out of the dugout and decided to take him out. His final line was a disappointing one, given his recent success. 85 pitches, 5.2 innings, 5 hits, 5 earned runs, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts. Will Vest came on to get the final out of the inning.
In the seventh, Taylor Clarke came on to pitch and Vierling collected his third hit of the night with a one-out single and then moved to second on a throwing error on a pickoff attempt. Looking to take the lead, Eric Haase drove a high flyball deep into left but it died on the warning track. Then Zack Short came to the plate with two outs and connected with a drive to center (101.8 MPH, 406ft) but once again Jackie Bradley Jr came up with a highlight reel catch at the wall to end the inning, leaving the Tigers to simply tip their caps (again).
Vest got the first two batters out in the bottom of the seventh but issued a two-out walk and that was the end of his night. Chasen Shreve came on and got the final out. Aroldis Chapman got the ball for the top of the eighth, and yes it did look really strange seeing him in a Royals uniform. Throwing 103MPH, he allowed only an infield single to Riley Greene who reached when he broke his bat but Bobby Witt Jr took his first steps towards that broken end of the bat instead of the ball, leaving him no time to correct and get Greene. Alex Lange was called on to get the heart of the order in the bottom of the eight and he did just that, setting down the side in order to send things to the ninth.
In the top of the ninth, Scott Barlow went to work and got the first two outs before giving up a walk to Matt Vierling, his fourth time on base in the game. Haase struck out to end the mini threat and send it to the bottom of the ninth, bringing the Tigers team LOB number to 12.
Working his second inning, Lange started off by walking the leadoff batter and going to 3-0 on the next batter, and suddenly things were looking like it would be another night where failure to score runners would be the Tiger’s downfall. But Lange got Witt Jr. to ground out and then got the final two outs uneventfully, dealing out a series of nasty changeups to Nicky Lopez in particular, to end the threat and send things to extra innings.
Eric Haase started on second for the Tigers in the tenth, with Barlow remaining on the mound. Short lead off with a walk but Schoop, who had pinch hit for McKinstry back in the 8th, flailed at a slider for out number 1. Then Riley Greene came to the place and lined a single into right that MJ Melendez had to play on a short hop, but because of the tough read, Haase was slowing down going into third. Melendez fumbled the ball briefly, but Haase was held at third by Gary Jones, probably wisely considering he’d had to wait to run on the play initially.
So, the bases were loaded and all the bad feelings and early missed opportunities were front and center in the minds of Tigers fans as Javier Báez came to the plate. It took exactly one pitch to erase them all. Javy unloaded on a middle fastball at 114MPH, ripping a double over the head of Pratto to the wall in left and clearing the bases. He was thrown out trying to stretch it to a triple and nearly beat the tag with a swim move, but the replay was inconclusive to overcome the call on the field.
Spencer Torkelson followed with a walk, his FOURTH walk of the game, but Ibañez popped out to end the inning, but the Tigers had an 8-5 lead. Hinch then turned to Jose Cisnero in the bottom of the innings, a curious move instead of going to Jason Foley, but AJ had made his decision and us fans were along for the ride. Cisnero got the blood pressure elevated with a leadoff walk, but the struck out the following two batters before getting Perez to fly out to shallow right field to end the game.
Whew! What a game, and a close game that has seemingly become the norm when the Tigers and Royals get together recently. Of course there are few easy victories in the major leagues.
The Tigers climb back to three games under the .500 mark and will look to take the series tomorrow. They’ll send their ace, Eduardo Rodriguez to the mound, who is looking to shake off his last start and get back to his excellent series of starts. The Royals meanwhile seem poised to have a bullpen game, which might work out in the Tigers’ favor as the Royals used seven relievers in tonight’s game. But since it is Kansas City, it’s safe to say it’ll probably be anything but easy.