For seven innings, the Detroit Tigers handled the Kansas City Royals with ease, building a seven-run lead on the back of another excellent outing by Matthew Boyd. The bullpen then melted down in spectacular fashion, only to be rescued by a Robbie Grossman walkoff single that gave them an 8-7 victory on Tuesday night in Detroit.
Matthew Boyd returned to action in strong fashion, picking up right where he left off before missing two starts with knee tendonitis. The left-hander once again kept his fastball up and out of the heart of the strikezone, while artfully mixing all three secondary pitches down or away. He went an efficient six innings in this one, blanking the Royals offense on four hits, five strikeouts, and two walks. Boyd had two runners on in second inning with two outs, but got Nicky Lopez to ground out to second to escape any damage. From there he really had little trouble at all despite fighting his command at times, breaking out the curveball and changeup to good effect and generally getting ahead in the count.
The Tigers offense mounted a little threat with two outs in the bottom of the second, as Boyd’s opponent, Brady Singer, hit Willi Castro with Jonathan Schoop already aboard on a single. Akil Baddoo got down 0-2, and then worked a walk to load the bases. Unfortunately a routine ground out from Grayson Greiner ended the threat.
In the fourth, Singer’s command, which had been sketchy for most of the outing, finally landed him in hot water. Jonathan Schoop hit a screaming line drive to center to lead off the inning, and Michael Taylor cut too sharp an angle trying to cut it off and the ball got past him all the way to the wall. When the smoke cleared, Schoop was on third base, and Singer looked shaky as he walked Niko Goodrum next. Willi Castro singled home Schoop on a sinking drive to center that Taylor laid out for but ultimately short-hopped. Goodrum got a perfect, if slightly dangerous, read on the ball and never stopped on his way to third. Baddoo then went oppo to single home Goodrum, and Grayson Greiner dumped a blooper into right field to plate Castro. Robbie Grossman picked up the first of his eventual five RBI on the night, lofting a fly ball to left to sacrifice home Baddoo and complete the four run barrage.
Greiner left the game with a tight left hamstring, and Jake Rogers took over. Catcher Eric Haase was pulled from the Toledo Mud Hens game in Indianapolis tonight, indicating the potential for a move. Wilson Ramos is currently on the 10-day injured list with back tightness, so the Tigers are likely to need some help over the next week.
Against the Royals bullpen, the Tigers came right back for more in the fifth. Goodrum singled, Willi Castro was hit by a pitch, and Baddoo walked to load the bases. After Jake Rogers flew out too shallowly to right to score Goodrum, it was Grossman time again and he drilled a triple to center field that cleared the bases.
All was right with the world.
Here is where the Tigers bullpen enters the picture, of course. With a seven run lead, Joe Jiménez came in for mop up duty and made a mess instead. Two walks, two strikeouts, and a Jorge Soler homer on a hanging slider, and the Royals were suddenly back in the contest. Kyle Funkhouser came on to get the final out of the inning, and A.J. Hinch turned to Jose Cisnero in the top of the ninth. Things proceeded much like the eighth had.
Cisnero gave up a leadoff double, struck out Taylor, and then allowed back-to-back singles to make it 7-4 Tigers. Carlos Santana struck out, and what should have been the final out of the inning was bobbled by Niko Goodrum. That brought up Soler with the bases loaded, and Soler hit one 419 feet to dead center over the outstretched glove of Baddoo for a three-run double.
And Tigers fans looked into that dark place that lives inside all of us when the bullpen is trying to hold a lead, and we saw that things were grim indeed.
Gregory Soto came on and manage to put out the Royals’ fire and send this to the bottom of the ninth. And somehow I had a weird confidence when Mike Matheny didn’t go to closer Josh Staumont. The Royals came into the game having lost eight straight games. Things have been going even worse for them lately than the Tigers, and that continued.
Niko Goodrum was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and then stole second base, seeking redemption for his costly miscue in the top half. Willi Castro was mown down on three pitches, but Baddoo followed with a four pitch walk. Rogers struck out, and suddenly it was all up to Grossman again. He ripped a 1-2 fastball into right field and Goodrum, the Tigers, and a very relieved bunch of Tigers fans in Comerica Park went home happy.
Thanks Robbie Grossman. The Tigers have now won two straight for the first time since April 14, when they completed a three game sweep of the Houston Astros.