Kansas City — On Monday night Tigers manager AJ Hinch praised his hitters for their at-bats with runners in scoring position. That on a night when they went 3-for-12 in that situation and left 13 runners on base.
The Tigers went 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners in a 4-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday and Hinch could barely disguise his frustration.
“They did more with their at-bats than we did,” he said. “We didn’t have a disciplined game across the board. Frustrating loss.”
Tigers hitters were stymied by right-hander Mike Mayers, who was making a spot start after pitching just 2.2 innings in relief this season. He ended up striking out a career-high eight in 4.2 innings.
“He spun the ball better than we anticipated,” Hinch said. “But we didn’t really make any adjustment to the spin, which was the frustrating part of it. We chased a little bit and got anxious as the at-bats went along. We allowed him to dictate the pace of the at-bats.”
The Tigers managed just two hits off four relivers over the final 4.1 innings.
Ultimately, it came down to a tale of two errors.
Each team’s shortstop made an error on a routine play. The Royals exploited the error for three runs. The Tigers failed to cash in.
The result: The Kansas City Royals evened the series with a 4-1 win over the Tigers at Kauffman Stadium.
We’ll start with the Tigers’ miscue. It came in the fourth inning.
The Tigers error came in the fourth inning.
“That opened the door for them and they knocked it down,” Hinch said. “At-bat after at-bat after that they made us pay for a mistake.”
It had been a grind early for lefty starter Eduardo Rodriguez. He struck out Bobby Witt, Jr., and MJ Melendez to strand two runners in the first. He struck out Jackie Bradley, Jr., and Nick Pratto to strand two more in the second. He needed 41 pitches to get through those innings.
And just as it looked like he was settling in – he retired six straight, five of them strikeouts – Javier Báez’s high throw to first pulled first baseman Spencer Torkelson off the bag.
The Royals scored two runs on the next three pitches. Michael Massey ripped a first-pitch, RBI double into the corner in right field and Maikel Garcia followed two pitches later with an RBI single.
Two batters later, Salvador Perez plated a third run with a sacrifice fly.
“Errors happen,” said Rodriguez, who went five innings, allowed four runs (two earned) with nine strikeouts. “I just try to execute the next pitch. They made good swings. I don’t put pressure on myself. Right away I just want to get the ground ball double-play after I see the error. That’s not a big deal to me.”
Flash ahead to the sixth. The Tigers trailed 4-1. The one run came in the fifth on a two-out single by Báez.
They had runners at first and second and one out against right-handed reliever Jose Cuas when shortstop Witt, Jr., booted a slow bouncing grounder by Akil Baddoo. It looked like the Tigers were poised to make their move.
Didn’t happen. With the bases loaded, second baseman Michael Massey made a diving catch of Jake Rogers liner up the middle and Zach McKinstry struck out on a 3-2 pitch sinker. McKinstry was justifiably fuming at home plate umpire Chris Segal. The 3-1 pitch, which Statcast showed outside the strike zone, was called a strike.
“If Rogers’ ball gets up the middle, it would’ve changed the game,” Hinch said.
Didn’t happen. The Tigers continue to take one step forward and one step back in the quest to get to .500. They will take a 21-25 record into the series finale Wednesday.
He ended up striking out a career-high eight in 4.2 innings.
Riley Greene’s two out single in the fifth led to the Tigers’ run and chased Mayers from the game. He’s now hit safely in all 17 games he’s played against the Royals in his career.