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In a microcosm of the Tigers' 2010 season, Royals come back to win in extras

Final - 8.25.2010 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 R H E
Kansas City Royals 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 1 4 11 1
Detroit Tigers 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 10 0
WP: Philip Humber (1 - 0)
SV: Joakim Soria (36)
LP: Alfredo Figaro (0 - 1)

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Today's game was a microcosm of the Tigers' disappointing season. Fast start, OK in the middle but with some blown chances, then fell apart late. It adds up to a 4-3 come from behind win for the Royals, denying the Tigers a sweep of both the series and the homestand.

The Tigers got off to a hot start, scoring three runs in the 3rd inning, as the bottom of the order, Ramon Santiago and Gerald Laird (who has FINALLY crossed the Mendoza Line, hitting a robust .203), came through with RBI extra base hits. The Tigers looked to be well on their way to an easy victory, and a sweep over a team they have traditionally struggled against.

But it wasn't to be.

The Tigers muddled through the middle innings on offense, but Armando Galarraga remained strong enough to keep the Royals at bay, shutting them out through six innings.

But late in the game, Galarraga ran out of gas. He gave up a solo home run to the Royals' Kila Ka'aihue, but did leave with a 3-1 lead with one out in the 7th. Phil Coke entered the game with a runner in scoring position, and shut down the rally post haste, striking out both Royals he faced.

Then came the 8th. Ryan Perry came in for Coke, and gave up a leadoff single, but got the next two Royals out.

At that point, Jim Leyland called for Papa Grande out of the pen, looking to get a four out save (or should I say, "the dreaded four out save") from closer Jose Valverde. As has been the case when called upon to get more than three outs, Valverde struggled. But this time, it wasn't after getting out of the 8th inning.

Ka'aihue, who may be on his way to becoming a Tiger killer, hitting a pair of home runs in the series, doubled and Brayan Peña followed with a double to deep right center, tying the game 3-3.

The Tigers had their chances after the Royals tied the game, as there were runners in scoring position in the 8th, 10th and 11th innings. But by now, you know the drill. The Tigers failed to get a hit with RISP each time, keeping the game, and the Royals, alive.

It's enough to cause you to pull your hair out...if you weren't bald already from a season full of RISP failures.

The Royals managed to hang around till the 12th, when the immortal Willie Bloomquist, he of the 12 career home runs in his nine seasons, took Alberto Figaro out of the park. Figaro actually deserved better, having pitched a pair of scoreless innings before the fateful 12th. But, you know, there's that little RISP issue...

Despite today's loss, the Tigers did have a very successful homestand, cleaning up the Indians and Royals to the tune of a 5-1 record. Most importantly, the Tigers gained 2 1/2 games (as of the time I write this) on the 1st place Twins.

Unfortunately, the hot streak has likely been too little, too late. With five weeks left in the season, the Tigers are mired in 3rd place, 9 1/2 games back with a 63-64 record.

At least they have given us a little hope with their recent surge. The Tigers haven't rolled over and played dead. Not yet.

But...there's always a but...regardless how well the Tigers have been playing, they now have to deal with their Achilles heel: the road. They are headed back on the road for ten games, with a three game trip to play the Twins slipped between winnable series with the Blue Jays and Royals.

This is it, folks. A make it or break it road trip.

If the Tigers are to have any shot at all at making September interesting, they have to play nothing less than absolutely lights out ball on this road trip...and most importantly of all, beat those damned Twins.