In what proved to be an exciting game for all the reasons that make baseball wonderful and awful at the same time, the Tigers lost in exciting fashion on the road in Kansas City. This game truly had everything: homer runs, slick double plays, costly mental errors, and of course, timely managerial gaffes. Although the Tigers lost 6-5, the recently recalled kittens showed a lot of fight that made it a fun game to watch, and actually made me personally feel enough feelings to feel something when they blew it in the end.
The Tigers struck first by getting on the board with one run in the third. Travis Demeritte led off the inning with a double that he roped down the left field line. Fresh off his September call-up, Grayson Greiner plated Demeritte with a ground ball single to left. The Tigers would get Greiner all the way to third, but would fail to score again due to a double play and strikeout.
The lead wouldn’t last long. Daniel Norris, who is on an innings limit for the remainder of the season, was so close to yet another scoreless start before failing to slam the door on the Royals in the third inning. He got the first batter he faced, but then walked the catcher in Nick Dini to put a runner aboard for certified Tiger-killer Whit Merrifield. Merrifield, who has approximately 279 hits against Detroit since the start of 2017 (unconfirmed), continued his ownership of the Tigers with a single to left.
Norris then got Adalberto Mondesi to fly out to right for the second out of the inning, which brought up newly-minted Tiger-killer Jorge Soler to the plate. As was the case with Merrifield, Soler did what he’s done all season, sending a mammoth home run to left center field to break the Kansas City single-season home run record with 39 and put the Royals up 3-1. Soler now has 28 hits against the Tigers on the season. Nine have been home runs. That’s one less than Miguel Cabrera has all season...
To their credit, the Tigers didn’t go quietly, and clawed their way back later in the game. With two outs in the seventh, Greiner got his second hit of the night with a single up the middle. Victor Reyes, who has the 12th most hits in the American League since the start of August — yes, we’re totally serious — stayed hot and hit a double into the left-center field gap to score Greiner and pull the Tigers within a run.
Cabrera led off the eighth with a single and was lifted for speed-demon Gordon Beckham, who advanced to third on a one-out “double” by Jeimer Candelario. Christin Stewart, who along with Candelario was also a September call-up, pinch hit for Dawel Lugo and ripped a single to right field to tie the game at three. Brandon Dixon then gave the Tigers a 4-3 lead on a sacrifice fly to center field.
Drew VerHagen, who is apparently really good now, took over for inning Norris in the fourth. VerHagen has been a revelation piggy-backing off of Norris’ three-inning starts, and while he didn’t have command of his curveball tonight, still gave the Tigers four and a third quality innings to keep the Royals at bay. In the eighth, VerHagen was pulled with one out after walking Mondesi to put the tying run on. Jose Cisnero came on and allowed a single to Soler before striking out Hunter Dozier for the second out.
With the lefty in Alex Gordon coming on to hit with two outs in the eighth, Ron Gardenhire went back to his bullpen and called upon Gregory Soto to get the final out. Folks,,, Soto did not do that... In what was maybe the most preventable sequence the Tigers have been a part of all season, Soto, who is a left handed pitcher and I can’t stress that part enough, didn’t check either runners on base. Mondesi and Soler then proceeded to double steal — yes, a play that seems to only work successfully in little league — on Soto to move both runners into scoring position.
Gordon then hit a soft, high-bouncing ground ball that bounced over Soto’s head and wound up in the glove of shortstop Willi Castro, but there was no play anywhere and the Royals had tied the game. To make matters even more weird, the Royals then scored on a wild pitch from Soto to take a 5-4 lead.
In the ninth, the Tigers conjured up a little more magic as Greiner and Reyes hit back to back singles to start the inning. Then, in what somehow managed to be only the second silliest managerial decision, Willi Castro attempted a sacrifice bunt, which predictably resulted in Greiner being thrown-out at third. After pinch-hitter Harold Castro grounded out, it was all up to Ronny Rodriguez. Rodriguez then hit a line shot over the head of the shortstop for a single! One run scores, tie game! Willi Castro tries to score on Gordon’s cannon from left... and yeah he’s out. We’ve seen that story play out many times before. But still, tie game!
The bottom of the ninth proved to be the silliest managerial decision of the night as Gardenhire opted to go against all statistics and baseball knowledge known to man and use Zac Reininger in a tie game on the road. Joe Jimenez was apparently warming in the bullpen for that save opportunity that was so close yet so far away. Even accounting for the distinct lack of talent on the squad, how many close games have we watched the Tigers fumble away late this season despite actually coming through with the key hits when they needed them? Too many and not enough both, if you take our drift.
Brett Phillips was a pinch-hitter and led-off the ninth with a deep drive to the warning track in left field that Dixon made a nice running catch on. One down, two to go. Ryan O’Hearn, another pinch hitter, then sent the first pitch he saw on the night to the exact same area that Phillips sent his... only it went over the fence to end the game.