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Royals 2, Tigers 1: Just not quite enough runs

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It went right down to the last strike, but a ground-rule double probably hosed the Tigers’ chance to tie the game in the ninth.

Kansas City Royals v Detroit Tigers Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

The rubber match of a three-game series against the Royals on a pleasant early-fall day, moved up an hour to better accommodate the Tigers’ next-door NFL neighbours, ended in a tight 2-1 Kansas City victory. A ninth-inning double hopped over the wall, preventing the Tigers’ tying run from scoring, and Kris Bubic held them down with his best start of the year.

Bubic, the Stanford product, has had a pretty mediocre year overall: a 5-6 record, 4.80 ERA, 5.39 FIP and 1.461 WHIP coming into today, in 18 starts and 27 appearances. The Royals think pretty highly of Bubic, though: he was a first-round pick in 2018, and he’s still barely 24 years old, so he’ll probably fully sort himself out sooner or later. Bubic had a heck of a day today, though.

Facing the youngster was the wily veteran, the master magician, the Dominatin’ Dominican, “Strikeouts? We don’t need no stinkin’ strikeouts!”, Wily Peralta. To say Peralta has been a delight and a surprise so far this year would be a grand understatement: in 16 starts he’s had a 3.04 ERA. I mean, sure, his FIP is nearly 5, which means he’s been lucky, but doesn’t the FIP formula assume the pitcher will strike out everyone? Oh well. As the old saying goes, “It’s better to be lucky than good.”

The Royals got on the board in the first: a leadoff double by the always-pesky Whit Merrifield was cashed-in by Andrew Benintendi’s single, putting the Missourians up 1-0.

Peralta put runners on base consistently in the early innings, piling up the pitches as he went, hittin’ ‘em where the Tigers weren’t. The Royals loaded the bases in the third with a pair of singles and a walk, but Peralta got Kyle Isbel to foul-out to the catcher. Good? Perhaps. Lucky? You betcha.

Cam Gallagher doubled to lead off the fourth, and was pushed to third with a Merrifield single; he scored on a Nicky Lopez sacrifice fly, putting Kansas City up 2-0.

Meanwhile, what were the Tigers’ bats doing all this time? Glad you asked: a hot pile of nothing, that’s what they were doing. Through two outs in the fourth inning there were three Tiger baserunners: a walk, a hit-by-pitch and a reached-on-error. Alas, Isaac Paredes hit a routine ground ball just in the right spot for Detroit’s first hit of the day, an infield single, but it didn’t get the Tigers on the board.

Derek Holland took over for Peralta with two outs in the fourth, to pitch to the left-handed Kyle Isbel. Peralta’s final line, and it ain’t too pretty: 4 23 innings, 8 hits, 2 earned runs, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts. Also, this:

Hunter Dozier, who was on first base when Holland took over, attempted to steal second, and successfully did so... but, since momentum is a fickle mistress, he slid too far, went past the base, and was tagged out.

Good? Not quite. Lucky? Absolutely!

In the sixth, Jonathan Schoop led off with a solid single to centre... but then Miguel Cabrera grounded into a double play, then Jeimer Candelario grounded out to second, and that was that. Bubic at this point had thrown a scant 80 pitches to get through six innings, matching his longest outing of the season, and the Tigers had nary a hard-hit ball the whole time.

Joe Jiménez inherited a 2-on, runners-on-first-and-second situation from Holland in the top of the seventh. Jiménez made short work of Adalberto Mondesi, though, coaxing another foul-out to catcher Eric Haase.

Bubic sailed through the seventh, 1-2-3, getting a pair of strikeouts and touching 95 mph, showing he still had a bit left in the tank despite in his longest start of the year. Josh Staumont took over in the eighth, and gave up a two-out single to Akil Baddoo, but then got Schoop looking on a strike-three call which looked a little low.

In the top of the ninth, Willi Castro — who doesn’t play a lot of left field — robbed Merrifield of a home run.

Bryan Garcia, who’d taken over from Jiménez to pitch the ninth, gave up a double to the dangerous Salvador Perez, but stranded him to keep the score at 2-0, going into the bottom of the ninth.

Scott Barlow, the Royals’ closer, came on for the save. Cabrera beat out an infield single that deflected off Barlow’s left calf, and Zack Short came in to pinch-run. Candelario then struck out on three pitches, but Haase walked on a very, very close full-count slider to put runners on first and second.

Isaac Paredes then hit an inches-fair double down the left-field line that hopped over the wall which scored Short but, if it hadn’t have gone for a ground-rule double, probably would’ve scored Haase as well, leaving the score at 2-1. The Tigers had runners on second and third with one out and Niko Goodrum at the plate, who struck out. Robbie Grossman pinch-hit for Daz Cameron with two outs, and was promptly intentionally walked to load the bases.

Hittin’ Harold Castro similarly grabbed a bat, and stepped to the plate in place of Willi Castro. The first pitch bounced five feet in front of the plate, and a nice stop by Perez kept the runners from advancing. Eventually the count ran full, the fans were on their feet... and Castro struck out on a foul-tip to Perez’s mitt.

The Tigers play their final home game of the season on Monday afternoon, a make-up game from a previous rainout, against the Chicago White Stockings at 1:10 pm EDT. Good seats are, very likely, still available.

Stats and Notes

  • From July 29 through yesterday’s game — 45 games and 43 starts — Miguel Cabrera’s slash line was .303/.369/.484 for an OPS of .853. In that time he hit 7 doubles and 7 home runs.
  • In case you missed it, Victor Reyes’ season was effectively ended with a right groin strain. Zack Short was recalled from Toledo to fill the roster spot.
  • My BYB colleague Peter astutely observed that the Tigers have a chance to finish the season with a better record than the Padres. If you’d have told me that in March, I’d have called you a damned charlatan.
  • On this date in 1849, Ivan Pavlov was born. Ever since my first-year psychology class, whenever I hear a bell ring, my mouth waters.