The Kansas City Royals battered the Detroit Tigers bullpen for six runs over the final three innings to win going away in extra innings 8-3. The Royals earned a split of rain-shortened two-game series.
Staff aces for the Tigers and Royals, Justin Verlander and James Shields respectively, were not around to get a decision. Verlander was pulled after seven innings with cracked skin on his pitching thumb and is listed day-to-day. Shields would pitch eight innings, allowing all three Tigers runs.
Phil Coke (0-2) was tagged for four runs in 1 1/3 innings, taking the loss. Tim Collins (1-0), who pitched a hit-less ninth for the Royals, earned his first win of the season.
George Kottaras drove in the game-winning RBI for the Royals with a 10th inning, bases-loaded walk. It was Alex Gordon who drove the final nails into the Tigers' coffin with an extra-innings grand slam, accounting for the final 8-3 tally.
The Tigers could only muster five hits against Royals pitching. Torii Hunter led Detroit with two hits and an RBI.
Two down in the first, Tiger and Verlander Killer Billy Butler at the plate, Verlander just pitched around him. But Eric Hosmer went the opposite way with two strikes and lined a double down the left-field line, Verlander suddenly in a jam.
Lorenzo Cain followed with an 0-2 chopper to third, which Miguel Cabrera proceeded to BARE-HAND.
Making the play a bit more exciting than necessary, Cabrera threw Cain out by a step to end the threat.
Bottom of the first, breaking out of an 0-for-26 slump, Austin Jackson ripped a 1-2 pitch from James Shields into the right-field corner for a lead-off double. Cabrera, doing what he does so well, lined an RBI single to left to give the Tigers a first-inning lead for the second-straight game.
Up 1-0, Verlander followed Max Scherzer's example from game one of the series, unable to shut down the Royals after being given a lead. Just like Scherzer, he was BABIP'd.
The Royals manufactured a two-out rally in the third, tying the game at 1-all.
Alcides Escobar was fooled on a two-strike breaking ball, but Verlander did not have a play on the resulting swinging bunt, the ball rolling to a stop in fair territory for a single. Escobar then stole second and scored when Verlander's nemesis, Butler, singled to right.
The Tigers threatened to take back the lead in the bottom of the inning, but...#TTBDNS.
Omar Infante walked with one out, took second on Jackson's ground ball, and advanced to third on Torii Hunter's infield single.
The stage was set for Cabrera, and for a moment it looked like he would give the Tigers a lead with a broken bat single. But the ball hung up long enough for second baseman Chris Getz to flag it down in short center.
The Royals continued to use BABIP as their main weapon against Verlander in the fourth, using a pair of infield singles to take the lead.
Leading off, Cain beat out a high chopper to third. With one out, Jeff Francoeur hit a dribbler which found the hole in the right side, Infante compounding matters by batting the ball into the outfield, allowing Cain to advance to third.
Infante's error cost the Tigers an unearned run and the lead, Cain scoring on Salvador Perez's sacrifice fly, the Royals taking a 2-1 advantage.
Apparently this was a day to manufacture runs, the Tigers countering with one of their own in the bottom of the fourth.
Fielder worked a lead-off walk, circling his way around to third on a pair of Shields wild pitches. Victor Martinez was unable to get the runner home, flying out to short left.
Jhonny Peralta would drive Fielder home, sending a sacrifice fly to right center. (MLB.com video)
Luckily for the Tigers, it wasn't Francoeur (and his ridiculously good arm) who made the catch. It would be Cain making the play in short-right center. Momentum carrying him toward right, Cain had to spin and throw, He still had a shot at nailing Fielder at the plate, but for some reason Hosmer cut the ball off, whirling around to throw home (you could hear someone scream "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" over the FSD mics).
The split second was just enough to allow Fielder to slide under the tag, trying the game at 2-all.
With the rain returning to Comerica in the fifth, the Royals generated another threat.
Butler singled with two out. Of course he did, that's what Butler does against the Tigers. Hosmer just threw his bat at an outside breaking ball, finding the hole at short, another BABIP single. Enough was enough; Verlander would shut the door, ending the inning when Cain bounced out to Infante as the rain continued to fall.
Having a great home stand so far, Infante ignited a rally in the bottom half of the fifth.
Infante singled with one out, taking second on a wild pitch. After Jackson walked, Hunter lined an RBI single to left, Infante racing home ahead of Gordon's throw.
Cabrera would then hit a rocket, but right at third baseman Mike Moustakas. He doubled Jackson, who never had a chance, off second base. Regardless, the Tigers had scraped across another run, retaking the lead at 3-2.
Verlander had his first 1-2-3 inning since the second in the sixth. Gordon would single with one out in the seventh, but Verlander would turn an Escobar come-backer into a 1-6-3 double play (nicely turned by Peralta).
Shields had been matching Verlander, setting down the Tigers in order in the sixth and seventh.
Verlander would end the seventh at 96 pitches, Bruce Rondon and Phil Coke warming up. Most days Verlander has at least another inning in him at that point. But while the Tigers were batting, FSD caught trainer Kevin Rand working on the thumb of Verlander's right hand.
It was enough of a problem to end Verlander's afternoon.
Justin Verlander left today's game with cracked skin on his right thumb. His is listed as day-to-day. #Tigers— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) April 25, 2013
Bruce Rondon would make his debut facing the middle of the Royals order. It could have gone better.
Leading off was Butler, and of course, he would single.
Jarrod Dyson pinch ran for Butler and immediately stole second on the rookie hurler. Dyson advanced to third on a broken-bat ground ball off Rondon's glove and would score on Cain's sacrifice fly to center, tying the game 3-3.
The rookie mistakes continued, even if Rondon was throwing high 90s gas.
Moustakas kept the inning alive, ripping a double into the right-field corner. Realizing Rondon was paying absolutely no attention to him, Moustakas stole third standing up.
Rondon would finally get out of the inning when Francoeur popped up to Fielder.
On the flip, Shields was rolling, throwing his third straight 1-2-3 inning in the eighth.
Rondon started the ninth, threw one pitch, and promptly got BABIP'd. Perez's ground ball up the middle found center field, the third hit Rondon allowed. It would be his last, Jim Leyland making the call for Phil Coke.
Getz was asked to bunt. Expecting it, Coke threw a fastball well inside. Somehow Getz leaped out of the wall and still got his bat on the ball, advancing pinch runner Elliot Johnson.
The runner now in scoring position, Coke would strike out Gordon. The Tigers intentionally walked the right-hand hitting Escobar to face the lefty, Dyson. The move paid off, Coke getting Dyson on a lazy fly to Donnie Baseball, ending the threat.
Bottom of nine, lefty reliever Tim Collins (and his Brian Wilson-esque beard) entered the game for the Royals. He struck out Fielder on a borderline outside 3-2 fastball, one too close to take...which Fielder did.
Martinez went to a 3-2 count before bouncing to Moustakas for the second out.
One more 3-2 count, this time on Peralta, who swung through a breaking ball to end the inning. Collins skated on along the edge of trouble, but never fell over it.
On to extra-innings we went, and the bullpen go BOOM.
Once again tempting fate, Leyland asked for a second inning from the lefty. But as good as Coke was in the ninth, he was the polar opposite in the 10th.
Cain doubled to left center with one down. That happens. Then, disaster.
The bottom fell out on Coke, the inning and the game. By "bottom falling out," I mean it collapsed like a Matt Millen-run Detroit Lions draft.
Unable to find the strike zone, Coke walked the .154 hitting Moustakas, then wild pitched the runners into scoring position while the light-hitting Francoeur was at the plate.
With first base now open, Francoeur was intentionally walked.
Then, it really got ugly.
Coke walked the backup catcher, George Kottaras, giving the Royals the lead. A merciful Leyland had Darin Downs relieve Coke.
Downs has been one of the most dependable relievers for the Tigers. So of course, he allowed a no-doubt grand slam to Gordon. who swung the bat as if he were a member of the Baseball Furies. The big fly landed in Cabrera-Fielder territory, the shrubs in dead center.
Well, the bottom of the 10th needed to be played, but GAME OVER.
Wind out of their sails, the Tigers could do nothing with Royals closer Greg Holland, ending the game by going down in order.
Some afternoon. Verlander's start was wasted, and the bullpen gave sports talk radio idiots fodder for the next 24 hours.
Well, you can't blame Jose Valverde for this loss, anyway.
The Tigers fall back to .500 on the season with the loss, their record dropping to 10-10. The Tigers are now 1 1/2 games back of the first-place Royals, who are 11-8.
Next on tap for the Tigers is a weekend series with the high-flying Braves, who hold the best record in baseball at 15-6. The Tigers definitely have their work cut out for them.
Anibal Sanchez (2-1) will take the mound for the Tigers, Paul Maholm (3-1) for the Braves.