Max Scherzer became the fifth pitcher since 1912 to start a season 18-1 and Miguel Cabrera slugged his eighth home run in 13 games, leading the Detroit Tigers to a 6-3 win over the Kansas City Royals. The Tigers take the long five game series three to two, the Royals dropping 8 1/2 back in the American League Central.
Once again given excellent run support Scherzer (18-1) did his part by shutting down the Royals over eight innings, allowing two runs on five hits, striking out four while not allowing a walk. The "Cy" Chen talk long debunked, the Tigers knocked starter Bruce Chen out of the game after 5 1/3 innings, serving up six runs on eight hits,giving the veteran lefty his first loss of the season.
Cabrera clobbered a two run home run in the first inning, giving him 40 on the season. Cabrera added an RBI single, raising his MLB leading total to 120. Every Tigers starter had a base hit, Torii Hunter, Brayan Pena and Ramon Santiago each driving in a run.
Nearly all of the Royals' offense came in the seventh, Salvador Perez and Emilio Bonifacio each driving in a run. Country Breakfast Billy Butler was the Royals' last gasp, hitting a ninth inning solo home run.
The five game series finally came to an end, the Tigers winning three, including the last two games. The Royals arrived 7 1/2 games out of first, now leave Detroit 8 1/2 back. Considering how the two teams have matched up, all five games won by three runs or less, two by just a run, the Tigers have to happy to see the Royals leave town further back than when they arrived.
Max Scherzer retired the Royals in order in the top of the first, which included a scream of disgust from Tiger Killer Billy Butler as he flew out to end the inning. Bottom of one, the Tigers had to face their occasional nemesis, Bruce Chen. But it doesn't matter who is on the mound against Miguel Cabrera, be it Bruce or "Cy" Chen, he's going to punish them.
Austin Jackson on base with a lead off single, Cabrera's eyes lit up seeing Chen's first pitch was an 85 MPH fastball high in the zone. Cabrera jumped all over it, crushing a line drive which carried into the left field bullpen. Home run number 40 on the season was his second big fly in as many Royals' pitches, giving the Tigers a quick 2-0 advantage (MLB.com video).
The first Royal to reach base was Chris Getz, beating out an infield single leading off the third. The speedy Getz was eliminated on a one out fielder's choice off the bat of speedier Jarrod Dyson. Working hard to hold the runners close, Scherzer would end the inning with little trouble, David Lough flying out.
The overblown "Cy" version of himself, retiring seven straight after Cabrera went yard. The streak ended with two out in the third, a turned around Lough playing Torii Hunter's fly ball to deep right into a double. (Click pic for GIF via @TheWorldofIsaac)
First base open, Chen made the decision to pitch to Cabrera with first base open. This time around Cabrera hit Chen's second pitch, lining an RBI single to left, Hunter crossing the plate to increase the Tigers' lead to 3-0. Or more correctly, Cabrera 3, Royals 0.
Chen struck out Fielder swinging to end the inning, but not before Cabrera had unleashed more carnage. In his last three at bats (two home runs and a single), Cabrera had driven in a run, needing only four pitches to do so.
Whenever Cabrera wasn't at the plate, the game resembled a pitcher's duel for the next couple of innings. Scherzer was excellent, facing the minimum of nine after Getz singled in the third. The Tigers showed waring track power, yet Chen had set down the five straight after Cabrera went yard. But with one down in the fifth, Jose Iglesias found the gap in left center for a double.
Jackson followed with a fly ball to deep right, both Lough and Iglesias misplaying it. Lough treated the fly ball as he did Hunter's, as if it contained Royals' kryptonite. Lough got himself turned around, crashing into the wall, the ball falling for a two base hit. But Iglesias didn't play it halfway, anticipating the fly to be caught. When the ball landed on the warning track, Iglesias was a step off second and had to hold up at third.
The Tigers overcame the base running blunder when Hunter flew out to right, deep enough for Iglesias to score. The sacrifice fly pushed the Tigers' lead to 4-0.
Jackson on third after tagging up, Chen and the Royals wanted NOTHING to do with Cabrera, issuing an intentional pass. Eric Hosmer got Chen out of the inning by stabbing Fielder's hard ground ball down the first base line, robbing him of extra bases. Regardless, the Royals were now down 4-0 with Scherzer pitching at near Max efficiency.
Scherzer's out streak ended with one down in the sixth. Dyson bounced a single to center, nearly hitting Scherzer. Dyson proceeded to steal second, the ninth stolen base in nine attempts for the Royals in the series. Having allowed his first base runner to reach scoring position, Scherzer shut down the Royals. Lough bounced out to second, Hosmer striking out. Hosmer stood at the plate, not at all happy being punched out. He may had a legit argument.
Let's just say umpire calls have a way over evening out.
After six full innings, the Tigers were still holding their 4-0 lead. His pitch count at 83, Scherzer was good for at least one more inning.
Bottom of six, Alex Gordon took extra bases away from Victor Martinez (and made tonight's TV highlights), crashing into the left field fence face first to run down a line drive (MLB.com video).
Gordon stiffly fell backward onto the warning track as if he had been cold-cocked, but was OK after taking a few moments to gather his wits.
One out, Dirks hit a hard line drive past a diving Getz for a single. The Tigers then tried to "make something happen." But this time, the hit and run worked. Dirks off with the pitch, Brayan Pena smoked a line drive to dead center over the head of Dyson. Dirks scored easily as Pena cruised into second with an RBI double (MLB.com video).
The Tigers having ignored the ridiculous "Cy" talk, pounding Chen for eight hits and (at this point) five runs, Ned Yost pulled the veteran lefty, replacing him with right-hander Louis Coleman.
Coleman may have not allowed an earned run this season, but he did allow the inherited runner to score. Ramon Santiago's seeing eye single navigated past Hosmer and Getz, allowing the Food Truck to rumble home with the sixth Tigers' run of the afternoon. Chen's line was now official, six runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Coleman then allowed a single to left off the bat of Iglesias, but Tom Brookens not elected to test Gordon's arm, Santiago holding up at third. Runners on the corners, the Royals would get out of the jam on Hunter's double play ball. But the Tigers had tacked on two more, their lead now standing at 6-0.
Down six runs, the always pesky Royals wouldn't go away. Top of seven, Country Breakfast led off with a single, Gordon following with a double into the right field corner. The Tigers giving up a run for an out, Salvador Perez bounced out to second, Butler scoring and Gordon taking third. But Bonifacio's fly ball found the left center field gap, the RBI double making it a 6-2 game.
Pitching coach Jeff Jones made a mound visit as the bullpen got busy. Bruce Rondon and Drew Smyly were warming up as Getz popped up for the second out. Scherzer stayed out of further trouble, striking out Alcides Escobar on his 101st and final pitch of the game.
Well, it might not have been his last pitch.
Leyland looked like he was ready to call it a day for Scherzer. Then he said something to Scherzer and left it at that. No handshake.— Jason Beck (@beckjason) August 18, 2013
Coleman retired the first two Tigers he faced in the bottom of the seventh, but it was more due to Gordon's glove than anything else. Gordon made a sliding catch to take a hit away from Hunter, then corralled Cabrera's frozen rope. Yost, having seen two straight line shots turned into out, made a pitching chance with Fielder coming to the plate.
Lefty Tim Collins took over, Fielder spoiling the strategy by reaching out at a big bender and looping a single over short. As did Martinez, doing the exact same thing, save from the other side of the plate. But Dirks' slow roller to short ended the threat.
Up 6-2 in the eighth, the question now was, would Scherzer remain in the game? Being 101 pitches was far from his season high (122 on July 13), indeed he would. Scherzer also needed a strikeout to keep his streak of five plus strikeout starts alive.
Scherzer didn't get the K, the streak ending at 24 games, but he did have a quick 1-2-3 inning. Scherzer was aided by Iglesias ranging to the second base side of the bag to flag down Hosmer's ground ball, his ridiculous range ending the inning. At that point, Scherzer did receive Leyland's "Handshake of doom," ending his day at 110 pitches.
The bottom three of the Tigers' order was easily retired by right-hander Luis Mendoza in the bottom half of the eighth. The Tigers, up four runs and looking to wrap up a series win, called on closer Joaquin Benoit to pitch in a non-save situation against the middle of the Royals' order.
It wouldn't be a series with the Royals if Butler didn't act like a Tiger Killer. He did judt that, cranking a lead off home run to left.
Holding a 6-3 lead, Cabrera gabbled up Perez's ground ball, but took too much time getting the throw off, allowing Perez to leg out an infield single. In desperate need of another base runner, Santiago all but ended the Royals' chances with a leaping catch of Bonifacio's liner. One out from a series win, Getz meekly bounced to second.
GAME OVER. Your final score is Tigers 6, Royals 3. Hell, just make it Cabrera 3, Tigers 3, Royals 3. Either way, it adds up to a victory.
Having wrapped up a 19 game in 18 days stretch, Monday is the Tigers' first day off since August 1. They'll enjoy it with a record of 73-51 and at least a six game lead over the Cleveland Indians. The Tribe began their Sunday afternoon game in Oakland at 6 1/2 back. The Royals lose the two games in the standings they gained in Friday's doubleheader sweep, ending the series in worse shape than they began, 8 1/2 back in the Central, 5 1/2 out of the wild card.
Tuesday, the Tigers start a three game series with the fourth place Minnesota Twins, currently 17 games back in the Central. Probable starters for game one are Twins' right-hander Mike Pelfrey (4-10, 5.26 ERA) and Rick Porcello (9-6, 4.33 ERA). Pelfrey last won a game on July 6, 0-4 with a 4.50 ERA in the seven starts since. Having a polar opposite second half to Pelfrey, Porcello is 3-0 with a 2.84 ERA since the All-Star break. Tuesday's first pitch is set for 7:08 PM.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
Miguel Cabrera's first inning home run made him only the third Tiger to have back-to-back 40 homer seasons (Cabrera had 44 in his 2012 Triple Crown season. The others are Hank Greenberg in 1937 (40) and 1938 (58) and Cecil Fielder in 1990 (51) and 1991 (44).
The home run was also career number 361, Cabrera tying Joe DiMaggio for 77th on MLB's all-time list.
FSD promoted Wednesday's free giveaway, a poster featuring Anibal Sanchez and Mickey Lolich.
The reaction from all over was pretty much this:
I want that poster— Bryan Craves (@DisplacedTgrFan) August 18, 2013
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you can't throw it by 'em, baffle 'em.
That 60-something mph breaking ball from Bruce Chen is registering as an eephus pitch on Gameday. He's thrown at least four. #eephus— Jason Beck (@beckjason) August 18, 2013
Who knew Jason Kipnis had a sense of humor?
Dear Miggy... You're making the rest of us look bad.. Knock it off! - MLB Hitters— Jason Kipnis (@TheJK_Kid) August 18, 2013
Max Scherzer: Tossed an efficient eight innings, giving up five hits and two runs while raising his record to 18-1. But Scherzer still takes a back seat nationally to...
Miguel Cabrera: First inning two run home run. Third inning RBI single. Fifth inning intentional walk. Seventh inning, rocket to left, but right at Alex Gordon. Reached base three times, two hits, a home run, three RBIs and a run scored. Just another day of baseball for Miguel Cabrera.
Jose Iglesias: Two hits, a run scored and crazy good defense.
No hisses, I'm just glad to see to see the Royals leave town.
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Miguel Cabrera's ninth inning walk off heroics also led to a walk off victory in the PotG poll, taking 90% of the vote.