DETROIT — The Tigers needed a win to sweep the Royals out of town and take sole possession of first place in the AL Central. Rick Porcello found himself on the losing end of a pitcher's duel against James Shields and the Tigers were shut out 3-0, despite a decent outing by Porcello and a highlight performance by Al Alburquerque in the eighth inning.
James Shields faced the minimum through six innings and holding the Tigers to just two hits — a leadoff single in the first by Ian Kinsler, and a leadoff single by Torii Hunter in the seventh. The Tigers struck out eight times against Shields and were able to draw just one walk in the seventh. They had one fly ball out, a bullet off the bat of Nick Castellanos, but it was hit to the wrong part of the ballpark and died harmlessly in center field.
"James Shields is a pretty good pitcher so, are we disappointed, you're disappointed every time you lose," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "We didn't give this game away, they beat us, they pitched better and they hit better."
In the seventh inning, Hunter's one-out single was followed by a wild pitch by Shields that allowed Hunter to advance to second; a walk to Miguel Cabrera put two on. However, a flyout by Victor Martinez and a strikeout by J.D. Martinez ended the first (and only) real threat the Tigers would give the Royals in the game. The Tigers were retired in order in the eighth and ninth innings, unable to hit anything to the outfield and striking out three times.
"We won two out of three and move on to the next one," Alex Avila said. "That's really it. It would have been nice to get this one but we didn't. They're a good baseball team, they pitched well and that's the way it is."
Porcello had accumulated four strikeouts before the second inning had ended. He would tack on two more, but the Royals sent seven men to the plate in the fourth inning, roughing up Porcello with two runs on four hits. Despite the fourth inning, however, Porcello recovered and finished with just the two runs on seven hits with no walks. Porcello concluded his day after 6 2/3 innings and Jim Johnson entered the game, getting the final out of the seventh.
"(Porcello) had great stuff, good command of the sinker, real good cutter, good curveball, very nice change," Alex Avila said. "He got some swing and misses towards the end of his outing. Just located pretty well. Overall good day."
Phil Coke was brought in for the eighth inning, but after facing three batters he departed without recording an out for lower back spasms. With the bases-loaded and Coke accountable for all the runners, Al Alburquerque was sent to the mound to get the Tigers out of a jam.
Alburquerque performed well, snagging a liner hit by Salvador Perez and snapping a throw to third base to pick off Alex Gordon at third, turning a double play. He struck out Mike Moustakas swinging to end the threat. Joakim Soria came out for the ninth inning and gave up a leadoff triple to Lorenzo Cain who came around to score, giving the Royals their final score of 3-0.
"I thought the guys played great," Porcello said. "This was like a little mini-playoff series. Everybody was up for it, everybody was excited, a lot of energy, and we played well. Tonight it was just, the rain played havoc with it, and Shields was outstanding — he didn't make one bad pitch the whole night. You just gotta tip your cap to a guy like that."
Rick Porcello: Shields gave the Royals a lights-out performance but Porcello didn't do too bad either. He gave up two runs on seven hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking out seven and walking none. A two-run fourth inning was all the trouble Porcello would get into and he recovered well.
Ian Kinsler: Porcello got into a jam in the third inning with a Alcides Escobar on third base. A ground ball by Nori Aoki reached Kinsler, who fired a bullet to home plate. Avila, having committed an error one batter earlier (allowed Escobar to get to third), definitively tagged the runner out at home plate to keep the game scoreless. Kinsler also got a leadoff hit in the first inning against Shields.
Al Alburquerque: Came into the game in a bases-loaded, no outs situation in the eighth after Coke was unable to retire a batter and was pulled from the game with an apparent injury. Alburquerque snagged a line drive hit by Salvador Perez and then picked off Alex Gordon at third base for a double play. A swinging strikeout of Mike Moustakas got the Tigers out of a huge jam, preventing further damage.
Tigers offense: They had one hit. Through six innings. And Kinsler was picked off before he'd even warmed up to the idea of being at first base. They wouldn't get another until a one-out single by Hunter and the walk from Cabrera.
Phil Coke/Joakim Soria: Coke walked the leadoff batter and gave up two straight singles to load the bases in the eighth. He exited immediately following the bunt single by Eric Hosmer for lower back pain. Soria gave up a leadoff triple to Cain, who came around to score on the sacrifice fly by Alcides Escobar.
Jose Iglesias visited Dr. Thomas Clanton in Vail, Colorado on Tuesday and was cleared to begin lower-body activities for the first time since March. The Tigers anticipate he will be ready to join the team in spring training next season.
Phil Coke exited the game in the eighth inning for lower back spasms while attempting to field a bunt. He will be re-evaluated on Friday.
Ian Kinsler hit a leadoff single in the first inning before nearly being caught on a pickoff throw to first base. The Royals chose to challenge the safe call, however, and a 1:10 review showed that Kinsler was out. (MLB.com video)
Aw, nuts— Rob Rogacki (@BYBRob) September 11, 2014
STREAKS AND STATS:
- Porcello recorded his 20th quality start of the season.
- Alburquerque has a 1.04 ERA and 19 strikeouts over his last 20 games.
- Joakim Soria pitched in his first game since being sidelined August 10-September 9 with a left oblique strain. He allowed one run on one hit.
- Victor Martinez's 28-game on-base streak was snapped Wednesday night, finishing 0-3 with no walks. It was the longest streak recorded by a Tigers player this season.
- The Tigers were shut out for the ninth time this season. Their two hits are the fewest since only collecting one hit on April 11 in San Diego against the Padres.
- The error by Avila in the third inning was the first, and only error committed by the Tigers this series.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
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