Tigers’ outfielders save the day with their gloves 

Detroit Tigers

KANSAS CITY — Riley Greene had never gone hitless in a game against the Royals in his brief big league career, an 18-game streak that ranked as the second-longest by an MLB player against one team. No four-hit performances or stat-stuffing games in the bunch, but often something to help the Tigers get through, such as his walk-off home run at Comerica Park last summer for his first MLB homer.

That hitting streak ended Monday at Kauffman Stadium, but by taking a hit away on defense, he found another way to torment his division rival, even if he had to endure that split second of fearing he’d messed it up.

“Terrible jump off the bat,” Greene said of his over-the-shoulder grab, which helped keep the Tigers close before they rallied for a 3-2 win. “From where I was, I thought he got fisted on it, so I didn’t think it was going to go that far. … And then I was like, ‘Oh god, I’ve gotta go back.”

Spencer Torkelson couldn’t help but needle his good friend about that.

“And then you had to screw it up and go Willie Mays,” Torkelson said from a couple lockers over.

While Greene was confident he could run it down, even if it looked like a hook route, it was a vital catch with a degree of difficulty. All three Tigers outfielders had highlight catches on a night when Detroit had to wait out Royals starter Jordan Lyles before getting to their bullpen to pull ahead late for their third win in four games out of the All-Star break.

“I almost feel like we stole that win,” said Matt Vierling, whose diving catch in right field helped starter Matt Manning through 5 2/3 innings with two unearned runs. “And that’s huge for us. I think down the road, that’s big for us. Being able to win as many as we can, especially like that, I think that gives us a lot of confidence going late in games, being down a couple runs, knowing we can do that.”

They know they can track down balls and take away runs in the spacious outfield of Kauffman Stadium, because they deal with that kind of territory on a regular basis at home.

“It’s almost like Comerica [Park],” Greene said. “Comerica is huge and we’re used to it. This place is huge, too. We have a pretty good feel for it because we’re used to covering ground out there.”

Despite the misread, Greene said he was confident he could run down Matt Duffy’s drive with runners at first and second in the seventh. He needed to cover 57 feet and ended up running 72, according to Statcast, taking in the ball like a wide receiver for the second out of the seventh inning. Once Brendan White struck out Nicky Lopez to end the threat, the Tigers could go into the eighth inning still down just two runs instead of worse.

“Our outfield defense was sensational,” manager A.J. Hinch said.

Both Royals runs scored from second on fourth-inning singles to left field, with third-base coach and former Tiger Vance Wilson testing the arm of Akil Baddoo. So it was just revenge when Baddoo tested right fielder MJ Melendez and stretched a leadoff hit into a double, providing a spark for a Tigers offense that had gone 20 scoreless innings since Kerry Carpenter’s three-run homer Saturday at Seattle.

Up came Greene with two outs, looking to extend his hitting streak and end Detroit’s drought. Instead, by taking a Taylor Clarke pitch under his right arm, he began a string of three consecutive Tigers baserunners reaching without putting a ball in play. Carpenter drew a bases-loaded four-pitch walk from Jose Cuas; Matt Vierling’s opposite-field double scored two more.

Suddenly, the Tigers were in front. Just when the Royals seemed set to rally in the bottom of the eighth, with Samad Taylor moving into scoring position with a leadoff single and stolen base off Jason Foley, Baddoo joined the highlight parade by running down Kyle Isbel’s opposite-field drive in the left-field corner with a lunging grab.

“I felt like I was running for days,” Baddoo said, “but I was glad I was able to get that catch.”

Alex Lange watched from the bullpen as Baddoo chased it.

“Off the bat, I was like, ‘I think this is going to get down,’” said Lange, who retired the Royals in order in the ninth for his 15th save. “He was closing in hard. He’s pretty special out there.”

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