Michael Pineda gave the Tigers what they needed, but the offense was once again completely overwhelmed by Brad Keller as the Royals took the first of four by a score of 3-1 on Monday afternoon.
Both starting pitchers got off on the right foot in this one. Brad Keller struck out Riley Greene and Javy Báez in the first inning, while Michael Pineda walked Bobby Witt Jr., who promptly stole second, with two outs but froze Vinnie Pasquantino with a fastball on the outer edge for strike three to turn the Royals away. The Tigers got a two-out single from Willi Castro in the top of the second, but Spencer Torkelson struck out swinging to end the inning before any threat materialized.
Michael Pineda was struggling to spot his slider, but the fastball-changeup command remained strong, and he needed just three pitches to collect two ground ball outs in the bottom of the second. Kyle Isbel put up more of a battle, fouling off a few two strike pitches until Pineda finally just fired one down the middle and Isbel popped out to Torkelson at first to end the inning.
The top of the third began with Kody Clemens, getting a start in left field for the doubleheader, grounding out. Tucker Barnhart followed with a ground ball to shortstop that Witt couldn’t handle, and then advanced to second on a Greene ground out. That left it to Báez, and Keller didn’t want anything to do with him, pitching him down and away with sliders and fastballs until finally walking him on a slider down and away that the Tigers’ shortstop refused to offer on. It added up to another donut unfortunately, as cleanup hitter Harold Castro (weeps quietly) grounded out to end the threat.
Fortunately, Pineda came right back out and tossed an eight pitch inning in setting the Royals down in order. Keller quickly returned serve in the top of the fourth, getting Miguel Cabrera on a soft-tapper before Jeimer Candelario lined one to second baseman Nicky Lopez, and Willi Castro flew out to left in foul territory.
Pineda struck out Andrew Benintendi on nasty changeup away, and then Witt lined out to quickly make it two outs in the bottom of the fourth. However, the next hitter, Pasquantino, drilled a first pitch fastball down the middle for a solo shot to break the deadlock. Emmanuel Rivera followed with a single, but Ryan O’Hearn grounded out as Pineda avoided any further trouble.
Vinnie Pasquantino's first two home runs in the Major Leagues have both...— Anne Rogers (@anne__rogers) July 11, 2022
--Come against the Tigers
--Been hit off RHP Michael Pineda
--Been in the fourth inning
--Come on the first pitch
The offensive futility continued for the Tigers in the top of the fifth. Torkelson got a 2-1 hanging slider and managed another routine ground out. Kody Clemens struck out and Barnhart grounded out to end the frame.
Isbel popped out to Torkelson again to start the bottom half, but Cam Gallagher followed with a double to left. Nicky Lopez put a good swing on a fastball but lined out to Clemens, and Michael Taylor lifted a fly ball to right for the final out of the inning.
A leadoff single from Greene opened the sixth with some promise that the Tigers might finally solve Cy Keller. Báez struck out, but Harold Castro came through with a single to center field, allowing Greene to go first to third. Miguel Cabrera worked into a 2-2 count, but swung at a wild slider in the dirt for strike three. However, the pitch got away from Gallagher, and Greene raced home to score the tying run. Keller rebounded by easily blowing Jeimer Candelario away to avoid any further trouble.
The Tigers’ failures were bound to blow up in their faces, and things finally went sideways in the bottom half of the inning. Pineda got Benintendi to fly out, but three straight singles followed, scoring Witt, who had started the party. A.J. Hinch went to Andrew Chafin, who walked Edward Olivares, pinch-hitting for O’Hearn, to load the bases. Isbel struck out, but a Cam Gallagher grounder that should have ended the inning was thrown away by Báez, allowing another run to score before Chafin could extricate himself from Pineda’s jam. 3-1 Royals.
Games like this are so often decided by who makes the worst play, and with a run on the line, this one has to qualify. In fairness, this was an easy ball for Torkelson to pick, but considering how many times Báez has bounced throws on totally routine plays only to get bailed out, this was bound to happen eventually.
Seen at the end of the clip is A.J. Hinch again questioning his life choices.
Pineda was again fine for a guy in his third start, but again, this is the Royals. 5.1 IP, 3 R, 2 ER, 7 H, 2 SO. Enough to win if the Tigers’ offense was any good.
Once again, Keller went through the Tigers 1-2-3 with no difficulty in the top of the seventh. Will Vest took over for Detroit and immediately allowed a Taylor double. Benintendi lined out to left, and Witt followed with a routine fly ball to right, giving Vest a chance to strand Taylor at second. He got it down, as Pasquantino grounded out to end the inning.
Finally, in the eighth Keller departed having embarrassed the Tigers twice in the past two weeks. Right-hander Taylor Clarke took over, and Hinch put Victor Reyes in to hit for Barnhart. Reyes hit the ball hard but lined out. Greene followed, fouling off five pitches before pulling a 2-2 changeup into right field for a single. With Báez up, Clarke wild pitched Greene over to second, and the Tigers were in business. However, Báez flew out routinely to right, and Harold Castro grounded out to end the inning, leaving the Tigers three outs left to work with, assuming they could shut down the Royals in the bottom half of the eighth.
Vest stayed in the game, allowing just an Olivares single in the eighth. He was erased by Eric Haase trying to steal second. It mattered not at all as Scott Barlow came out for the ninth and easily retired the Tigers to earn the save.
This was a frustrating watch. The Tigers weren’t even particularly impatient, they just didn’t square up hittable pitches. Riley Greene had two of the team’s meager four hits, against a fifth starter type. Between that and Báez giving up an extra run on a another fairly routine throw that was in the dirt, there was little to like in this one.
Alex Faedo will take on Daniel Lynch in the nightcap with first pitch set for 8:10 p.m. EDT.