Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
In Act IV of an epic twenty-contest struggle for dominance in the AL Central, the upstart Royals and the mighty Tigers from Motor City did battle Saturday night at beautiful Kauffman Stadium. Unfortunately for Royals fans, the game ended just as the three previous matches this season between these two teams – with a Tigers victory.
Both teams sent young left-handed pitchers out to start: 25 year-old Danny Duffy for the Royals, 24 year-old Drew Smyly for the Tigers. It was the first big league start for Duffy since September 07th of 2013, and manager Ned Yost specified an 80-pitch limit for him prior to the game.
After trading a few harmless jabs over the course of the first three innings, Detroit struck first with a single run in the top of the fourth inning on a rare mistake by Gold Glove left fielder Alex Gordon, who ironically received his award in a ceremony prior to the game.
Duffy loaded the bases with one out by walking three of the first four batters he faced in the inning, then got third baseman Nick Castellanos to hit a routine fly out to medium depth left field. Gordon wrongly assumed the slow-footed Miguel Cabrera wouldn’t challenge his highly-regarded arm, and focused his attention on trying to double-off Martinez at second base. Meanwhile, Cabrera unexpectedly raced home, forcing Alex to make a weak, off-balance / off-line throw as Cabrera scored easily. Had Alex initially set up in anticipation of a possible tag play at home, Cabrera would have likely not run, or would have been out by a mile.
The vaunted Royals defense was less than stellar on several other occasions, while the Tigers were making great plays all over the outfield, repeatedly thwarting Royals hitters with great catches and throws throughout the match.
Duffy did a decent job, throwing 75 pitches over four innings, allowing one run on two hits and four walks, before giving way to Louis Coleman to begin the fifth.
The Tigers scored two more runs in the sixth off doubles by Cabrera and Castellanos, sandwiched around an intentional walk to Victor Martinez. Both runs were charged to Coleman, even though Kelvin Herrera gave up the RBI double to Castellanos.
The Tigers then viciously piled on to the Royals misery with six more runs in the ninth off wide-eyed youngster Aaron Brooks, making his major league debut in relief for KC, knowing full-well young Aaron’s family would be devastated by the ruthless onslaught (I guess sportsmanship is dead in Motown…you should be ashamed of yourselves, Detroiters, crushing a young man’s hopes and dreams).
Down 9-0 after being shut out for seven innings by the soft-tossing but effective and wily Smyly and a scoreless eighth by Joba Chamberlain, the Royals managed to score two meaningless runs in the bottom of the ninth off Phil Coke, whose ERA is (mysteriously) 9.39.
The Royals now find themselves a game below .500 at 14-15 on the young season, four games behind first place Detroit, hoping to salvage a victory while facing Tigers Ace Justin Verlander in the series finale Sunday afternoon.