The Tigers built a slender early lead in this one, but the bullpen blew it in the middle innings. Fortunately, Christin Stewart was back with the heroics, powering the Tigers to a 7-4 victory, and a 6-3 record, on Saturday at Comerica Park.
Starter Matt Moore got out on the right foot in his second start for the Tigers. Moore breezed through a quick first inning, and then struck out the side in the second. In the third, Moore got two quick outs, but then threw away a comebacker to the mound trying to nail the speedy Billy Hamilton at first. Hamilton went to second base, while Moore rebounded to get Whit Merrifield to bounce to first base and end the inning. However, somewhere in those sequences of events, Moore sprained his right knee, and after the inning ended he went down the tunnel with a trainer, while Daniel Norris started warming in the Tigers pen.
In the meantime, the Tigers got on the board in the second inning. Niko Goodrum continued to show the hot hand, ripping a liner to right for a single. Christin Stewart and Grayson Greiner drew walks, and Jordy Mercer plated Goodrum on a hard grounder to second base that Royals 2B Frank Schwindel couldn’t corral. Josh Harrison bounced out to snuff the rally, but Norris took the mound with a 1-0 lead.
Norris walked the leadoff hitter, but got a groundout, a strikeout, and a flyout to left in the fourth inning. He continued pumping a heavy dose of fastballs in the fifth, punching out Chris Owings in another clean inning. Overall though, Norris had little command of anything but his fastball, and even that was sketchy.
Nick Castellanos provided a scoring opportunity in the fifth. He lined a Jorge Lopez offering into left-center and was thinking two all the way. The Royals defense was caught off guard a bit and Castellanos slid in under the tag at second. Miguel Cabrera lined a single past the outstretched glove of Adalberto Mondesi at shortstop, and Castellanos raced home to make it 2-0 Tigers. Goodrum then flew out 410 feet to center field, and Jeimer Candelario lined out sharply to second base to end the inning.
Whit Merrifield trimmed the Tigers lead to one run in the sixth inning with a solo shot into the visitor’s bullpen in left. Jorge Soler completed the Royals comeback with a solo shot of his own to lead off the seventh. Jordy Mercer couldn’t handle a solid grounder from Schwindel, and Norris departed at 50 pitches with a man on first and one out. Victor Alcantara entered, hunting a double-play ball. He didn’t get it.
Alcantara struck out Chris Owings, while Terrence Gore, pinch-running for Schwindel, stole second base. Hunter Dozier then launched the Royals second long ball of the inning, planting a first pitch fastball deep into the left field seats to make it 4-2 Royals.
The Tigers turned right around in the bottom half of the frame with a rally of their own. Jordy Mercer dumped a single into shallow right, and Royals reliever Kevin McCarthy hit Josh Harrison on the backside to put two aboard. Nick Castellanos cashed in Mercer with a line drive to center field, but Harrison hesitated and was forced to hold up at second. That would prove important. Miguel Cabrera ripped his third single of the day—and third with an exit velocity well over 100 mph— to Alex Gordon in left, and Gordon, a superb defender in his prime with a strong arm, gunned down Harrison at the plate. Niko Goodrum flew out to center, with Castellanos advancing to third on a poor throw from Hamilton.
Wily Peralta came on at that point and promptly walked Jeimer Candelario, loading the bases for Christin Stewart. And OH BABY did Big Stew deliver! Catcher Martín Maldanado called a heavy dose of changeups with Stewart fouling off the one fastball he got. In a 2-2 count, with the energy level peaking in Comerica Park, Stewart came through, turning on a changeup that Peralta hung middle-in and destroyed it down the line in right field for a grand slam to put the Tigers back on top 7-4. Wow. Stewart has two home runs so far, and they’ve both been huge.
Joe Jimenez came on to defend the lead, allowing a single but no more in the eighth inning. The Tigers then re-loaded the bases in the bottom half of the frame before Kyle Zimmer got Goodrum on a broken bat grounder to second base. MLB saves leader Shane Greene got the day off on Friday, and had little trouble closing out the Royals in the ninth for his fourth save in five days.
- Matt Moore’s velocity wasn’t quite where it was in his first start, but he looked good before exiting with the knee sprain. It didn’t appear to be a major injury, but we’ll have to wait for news.
- Daniel Norris pitched aggressively, but just couldn’t command anything but his fastball. Not good. Beyond the two homers, there were a few other hard hit balls corralled by his defense.
- Miguel Cabrera isn’t getting the ball in the air, but as usual, he’s hitting it consistently harder than all but a few guys in the league. It’ll come around. Just stay healthy big fella.
- Nick Castellanos had three hits, including two doubles in this one.
- On top of the grand slam, Christin Stewart also dumped a double down the left field line in the second inning and drew a walk as well. Pretty, pretty good.
- It’s too early to go bragging on the Tigers, but man it is real hard to see why anyone was picking the Royals to finish third in the division. Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi are quite good, but beyond that, and especially on the pitching side of things, there just isn’t much there.
With his RBI in the fifth inning, @MiguelCabrera takes sole possession of 29th place on the MLB all-time RBI leaderboard (1,637), passing Ernie Banks.— Tigers PR (@DetroitTigersPR) April 6, 2019