An eight-inning nailbiter turned into four runs of breathing room as J.D. Martinez and Alex Avila both homered in the ninth to give the Tigers a 5-1 victory, handing them the series over the Royals and a five-game winning streak. Rick Porcello worked through seven innings on his way to picking up his 12th win of the season as the Tigers cruised to a comfortable lead of 7 1/2 games in the American League Central Division with one game left to go before the All-Star break.
Rick Porcello wasn't at his best Saturday night, needing to fight through uprisings by the Royals, but even with the rampant heat and humidity of Kansas City and glaring sunlight wreaking havoc on the field, Porcello was able to hold the Royals to just one run on six hits while striking out three and walking three.
The Royals threatened several times in four innings, — including a bases-loaded situation in the fifth — but solid defensive work and Porcello's ability to induce groundball outs resulted in two inning-ending double plays and a harmless flyout. All that resulted from the Royals' outbursts was a sacrifice fly by Billy Butler in the sixth. Joba Chamberlain came out for the eighth inning and pitched yet another scoreless frame, striking out Lorenzo Cain in the process.
The Tigers offense didn't fair much better through eight innings. Despite getting eight hits through eight innings, they were held to just two runs in that time by Royals starting pitcher James Shields and relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera. Their opportunity would come with one out in the ninth and what seemed like no room for error with Joe Nathan warming up in the Tigers bullpen.
J.D. Martinez and Alex Avila sat Nathan down with a solo blast and a two-run homer, respectively, and handed the Tigers a more agreeable 5-1 lead. Nathan remained in the bullpen to rest up for a more pressing situation on another day and Al Alburquerque closed the books on the 53rd win of the season for the Tigers with a 1-2-3 ninth inning.
Austin Jackson: Loves hitting in Kansas City. After finishing 3-4 Friday night, Jackson started out with a leadoff single in the first inning and followed it up with a smoked double to deep center field in the third. He later scored the first run of the night at the bat of Ian Kinsler who drove him in with an RBI single. The run was Jackson's fifth run scored in the series for the Tigers. To put it into perspective, the Royals have had six altogether in the series.
J.D. Martinez: Victor Martinez has been sidelined for side soreness and will not play until after the All-Star break when the Tigers face the Cleveland Indians next week. Filling in has been J.D. Martinez, who has fit in nicely, batting cleanup nearly every game and Saturday was no different. Martinez nailed a 2-0 fastball to left center field for his 13th home run of the season. Of the 13 Martinez has hit this season, six have come in the ninth inning or later, and he now trails Cabrera's home run tally by one.
Alex Avila: After striking out looking in his first at-bat, Avila coaxed the same pitch into being called a ball rather than a strike and working the count full with two outs in the fourth inning. Avila was rewarded with an RBI single to left field as he drove in Hunter for the second run of the night to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead. The redeeming at-bat of the evening would come in the ninth. Avila had struck out twice and was 1-3 for the night, nearly securing himself a spot in the "hiss" department. Until he smoked a two-run home run in the ninth to give the Tigers a comfortable 5-1 lead over the Royals.
Torii Hunter: Hunter absolutely killed a full-count changeup to deep center field over the head of Jarrod Dyson and TRIPLED (!!!) for the first time since September 21, 2013. Hunter scored on the RBI single to left field by Alex Avila because he can still run. Can't say the same for Billy Butler. Hunter also singled in the ninth and he finished 2-4, although he was caught stealing second in the ninth. As Avila homered following Castellanos' reach, what could have been a three-run homer was reduced to a two-run shot.
Rick (escape artist) Porcello: Got himself into four jams in the second, third, sixth, and most notably the fifth inning. The groundball aficionado induced back-to-back inning-ending double plays in the second and third inning. Porcello saved his best trick (unnecessarily) for the fifth inning. After giving up a leadoff double to Billy Butler and walking two — which loaded the bases — Porcello got Lorenzo Cain to strike out swinging with a 92-mph fastball and end the fifth without surrendering a run. In the sixth inning, Porcello gave up back-to-back singles with one out and a sacrifice fly by Butler put the Royals on the board, but a flyout of Mike Moustakas to Jackson snuffed out the possibility of further damage and the inning ended with a 2-1 score going into the seventh.
Miguel Cabrera: Had a very un-Cabrera like night and he finished the night 0-4 with two strikeouts.
Nick Castellanos: When you strike out swinging in back-to-back at-bats, you're not going to get very far. Yet, that's just what Castellanos did Friday night and joined Cabrera and Avila with two strikeouts for the night. To his credit, Castellanos reached on a fielding error by Moustakas in the ninth inning with one out, which made Avila's home run a two-fer rather than a solo shot.
Andrew Romine: Finished 0-4 with two groundouts and a strikeout. A mundane evening to say the least for the Tigers shortstop.
STREAKS AND STATS:
- Rick Porcello induced his 19th double play of the season in the third inning, which is the second most in the majors. Only Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros has more, with 20.
- Rick Porcello finished the first half of the season with a 12-5 record and a 3.39 ERA. Porcello is now tied with Cardinals' Adam Wainwright, Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka, and Reds' Alfredo Simon for first place in wins in MLB. Saturday's win gave Porcello 73 career wins, which tied him with Billy Hoeft for sixth in franchise history before the age of 26.
- Since July 2, Austin Jackson is hitting .375 with five doubles, a triple, two RBI, and nine runs scored.
- Ian Kinsler finished 2-4 and recorded his 115th hit for the season in the eighth inning. Only two Tigers have more hits before the All-Star break since 1933: Miguel Cabrera (132 hits in 2013) and Al Kaline (122 hits in 1955).
- Joba Chamberlain's scoreless eighth inning gave him the American League lead 18th hold of the season. Chamberlain has not allowed a run in 23 of his last 25 outings.
- The Tigers bullpen has thrown 18 consecutive scoreless innings and has a 0.70 ERA in 25 2/3 innings pitched since July 2, allowing just two runs in that time.
- The Tigers' will enter the All-Star break with the fifth-most wins in franchise history prior to the All-Star game since 1933. The Tigers' previously recorded higher records were in 1961, 1968, 1984, and 2006. Two of those seasons (1968, 1984) led to a World Series title, a third (2006) led to a World Series appearance when the team went into the break with 59 wins. While they did not advance to the World Series in 1961, the Tigers amassed 101 wins that season, one of rarer numbers in MLB history for a team to accumulate without advancing.
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