The KC Royals have lost eight games in a row. They need to win in Detroit.
The KC Royals, losers of eight straight games and two series in a row, begin a seven-game road trip tonight in Detroit. The Royals play three against the Tigers, then go directly to Chicago for a doubleheader Friday and single contests Saturday and Sunday.
Against Detroit, the majors’ worst team at 10-24, more losses and being swept a third straight time isn’t as unthinkable as it was just a week ago, when the Royals led the American League Central and were beginning to convince baseball that their painful rebuild was really over. Now, however, the idea of Kansas City’s losing ways continuing in The Motor City can’t be dismissed.
The circumstances have changed that much. Besides being their eighth defeat in a row, the Royals’ Sunday loss to the White Sox put them under .500 for the first time this season. They’re not hitting. Pitching inconsistency, a malady limited for a time to the starting rotation, recently infiltrated the bullpen with predictable results. Season run differential, a statistic somewhat reflective of both hitting and pitching proficiency, disfavors Kansas City by 31 runs. Players are, to put it mildly, collectively underperforming.
It is ugliness the Royals must put an end to in Detroit. They need to rediscover the right track before heading to Chicago.
Unfortunately, though, nothing can be taken for granted in Detroit. Yes, the Royals swept four from the Tigers a week before last at Comerica Park, and the retooling Tigers should be considered out of the race for October baseball because they’re already 10 games out of first place. But Detroit is a team that too often seems to find ways to annoy the Royals.
Take that four-game sweep, for example. The Tigers didn’t roll over every time out—starter Matthew Boyd held KC to one unearned run in eight innings in the second game, losing 2-1 primarily because Andrew Benintendi scored the eventual winning run on a fifth inning throwing error, and Brady Singer struck out eight and surrendered only a run and three hits in seven innings for Kansas City.
Boyd (2-3, 2.27) and Singer (1-3, 3.41) will likely face off again in tonight’s series opener.
And Detroit didn’t make it easy for KC in the finale. Tiger starter Spencer Turnbull was, like Boyd before him, largely the victim of one difference-making play, a two-run homer he allowed Carlos Santana in the fifth to fuel the Royals’ 3-2 win. Brad Keller gave up Detroit’s two runs in his six innings. Although the Royals, probably owing to the uncertainties created by Friday’s twinbill in Chicago, hadn’t announced all their Detroit series starters as of late Monday, it’s entirely possible manager Mike Matheny will pit Keller against Turnbull (1-2, 4.74) again Thursday.
Other than third baseman Jeimer Candelario, who went 6-for-16 and clubbed a homer, the Tigers didn’t hit much in that four-gamer, but that doesn’t mean they won’t this week. Candelario is batting .289 with a .355 OBP and outfielder Nomar Mazara, who’s hit 20 homers three times and 19 once in his five-year big league career, returned from the Injured List Saturday and tripled against Minnesota. (Rain washed out the clubs’ Sunday finale and the Tigers, like the Royals, had Monday off).
Then there’s Miguel Cabrera. Despite hitting just .149 so far, he always seems to make himself a bur in KC’s saddle.
And don’t forget these clubs played each other fairly evenly the last three seasons: Kansas City won four more games than Detroit over that span.
In the end, give the edge to the Royals in this series. Unless they choose to hold 2021 staff ace Danny Duffy, who’s 4-1 with a stingy 1.26 ERA, back for the critical Chicago series, he could pitch Wednesday against Casey Mize (1-3, 4.41) which would, with Singer going tonight, give Kansas City a leg up on taking the three-game set.
Pitching Duffy against the Tigers is the right call. The KC Royals need this series. They simply can’t afford to limp into Chicago Friday with their losing streak unbroken, or after dropping two games to Detroit—not after losing four of five games this season, and 11 of their last 13, to the White Sox, who seem once again to have this team’s number.
Tonight’s series opener begins at 6:10 p.m. CDT. The KC Royals and Detroit play at the same time Wednesday evening, then conclude with a 12:10 game Thursday.