Royals 8, Tigers 0: Bullpen goes full meltdown in loss

Bless You Boys

This was a tense 1-0 game all afternoon, but the Tigers bullpen went full Chernobyl in the ninth inning to blow any chance of a comeback and then go on to turn this into a rout for Kansas City.

For seven innings, we got an excellent pitching duel between two of the highest spin breaking ball pitchers in the game. Reese Olson’s slider and Seth Lugo’s power curve both regularly crack 3000 rpms. Olson has a bit more velocity and a far better changeup, but less experience. Meanwhile, Lugo found his stride again with the Padres in 2023 and is mixing two seamers and cutters to keep the fastball from getting rocked. He looks like a good pickup for the Royals in the early going.

Particularly early on, the umpiring unit known as C.B. Buckner was poorly calibrated, and so the strike zone dipped up to four inches below the strikezone through most of the two starters outings, though Buckner did make some adjustments in the middle innings.

Olson struck out Vinnie Pasquantino and Bobby Witt Jr. looking in a 1-2-3 first inning and went on to retire the first seven batters he faced. Finally in the third Olson ran into a little trouble. He allowed one out singles to Adam Frazier and Kyle Isbel, and struggled with his command out of the stretch, walking Maikel Garcia. Chris Fetter came out to settle him down, and Olson retired Witt Jr. on a fly ball that scored Frazier from third and then popped up Pasquantino to escape with minimal damage.

Lugo was doing even better, retiring 10 in a row to start the game. Javier Báez drew a walk in the third, but Jake Rogers struck out. Parker Meadows lifted a deep fly ball to right field, but Adam Frazier went up over the wall to bring it back. Báez cheated too far around second base to get back in time, and Frazier threw him out at first base to complete the 9-3 double play.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Tigers got back to back singles from Mark Canha and then an infield single from Spencer Torkelson on a play that was challenged but the safe call upheld. However, Kerry Carpenter hit a soft liner to Witt Jr. and Matt Vierling lined out to center field to end the inning.

Olson pitched around a two out walk and then a single by Garcia in the fifth, as Witt Jr. flew out to center field.

Colt Keith lined out to center field at 103.3 mph to open the bottom half, continuing the lack of breaks on his hard hit balls in play. Through six innings, Lugo had allowed two routine singles, walked one and struck out seven Tigers. He stayed down in the zone and away, mixing his twoseam and curveball and locating them well. There were only a few hard hit balls throughout his outing.

Olson wasn’t quite as good, issuing three walks and allowing the one run, but he too had seven strikeouts and only three hits allowed through six inning.

It looked like Olson’s day was done after six, but A.J. Hinch sent him out in the seventh and again he set them down in order, striking out Frazier and Kyle Isbel to finish with eight punchouts over seven innings and 100 pitches thrown.

Lugo came back out as well, striking out Torkelson and Carpenter swinging over breaking balls. Matt Vierling lined one to right field for a single and just the third hit for the Tigers. Colt Keith locked into a somewhat lengthy battle as Lugo’s pitch count topped 100. He fouled off a tough 3-2 curveball just below the zone, and the next pitch sailed inside for a two-out walk. It didn’t matter as Báez popped up a breaking ball to send this to the eighth.

Alex Lange handled the eighth with relative ease, striking out Witt Jr. along the way in a 1-2-3 frame. You’d love to not waste the dominance of this pitching staff, but no doubt the Royals felt the same way. The Tigers would unfortunately run out of dominance first.

Old friend John Schreiber took over for KC in the bottom of the eighth. The Tigers had Rogers, Meadows, Greene lined up to face him, and with Carson Kelly dealing with ribcage soreness and scratched prior to the game, A.J. Hinch couldn’t pinch hit for Rogers, who popped out. He did insert Wenceel Perez for Meadows, but Perez popped out as well. With two outs, Riley Greene reached on a Maikel Garcia throwing error, and Mark Canha followed him with a single back up the middle. Finally the Tigers had a runner in scoring position…and Schreiber punched out Torkelson with a sweeper on the outer edge.

Tyler Holton was tasked with giving the Tigers a shot in the bottom of the ninth. It didn’t begin well, as Salvador Perez drilled a leadoff single to right field. Hunter Renfroe reached on a slow bouncer to third, and the Royals were in business. It then got much, much worse.

Garrett Hampson pinch-hit for Michael Massey against the lefty, but Holton struck him out after a failed attempt to bunt the runners over. Nelson Velazquez however, drew a walk to load the bases with Frazier at the dish. Holton then hit Frazier to force in a run. The elite command version of Holton has not been in evidence much so far this season, and he followed that up with another sinker that sailed arm side and drilled Kyle Isbel as well. Great work.

3-0 Royals, bases loaded, and still only one out. Will Vest came on in place of Holton and got lit up, allowing five runs, three of them charged to Holton, and this one was long over by the Tigers went down in the bottom half.

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