Detroit — The Royals are having the kind of series against the Tigers that Detroit wanted to have against Kansas City.
Three wins in a row, in other words.
And with Wednesday’s 2-1 victory over the Tigers, which stretched their first-place lead to 1˝ games, the Royals know they are guaranteed of leaving town pleased with how the series went.
No matter how today’s finale goes.
After allowing 11 runs in two straight games, the Tigers featured a well-pitched game Wednesday courtesy of Drew Smyly.
But they mustered only five hits.
The minus offset the plus, which is why the Tigers have now gone 9-20 since they started 27-12.
“Smyly gave us a chance to win, but we failed to capitalize,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said.
More than that, though, this team could be in the process of becoming one of the oddest of all Tigers teams — one that looked great, one that now looks bad with no sustained middle ground of simply looking good.
Even when it appeared the Tigers might give themselves a chance in the ninth inning to cause some trouble, they didn’t, wasting a leadoff single by Miguel Cabrera.
The single was followed by a fly ball to left, a strikeout and Alex Avila’s fly ball to deep center that ended the game and gave Royals closer Greg Holland his 21st save.
Holland hasn’t allowed a run in 16 appearances since May 6.
“If that had been hit yesterday, with the wind blowing out, it would have been a home run,” Ausmus said. “But the wind wasn’t blowing out this time. You have to deal with it.”
As for who’s getting it done for the Royals, Omar Infante didn’t come into this series sizzling. In his last 25 games, he was hitting .219 with no home runs and seven RBIs.
But in the last three days, with eight RBIs, he’s beaten up his former teammates.
Infante hit a three-run home run and had four RBIs in Kansas City’s 11-8 triumph Monday.
He added another three RBIs on Tuesday in an 11-4 victory.
When he hit a solo home run in the fifth Wednesday, which proved to be the difference, it gave Infante one more RBI in 11 at-bats against the Tigers than he’d had in 105 overall at-bats since April 30.
“I’m lucky in this stadium,” Infante said. “It’s a surprise, but it’s good for us.”
The Tigers got a bad break in the first, but there was an element of good baseball on the Royals part as well. If the Royals hadn’t turned a one-out single by Eric Hosmer into a scoring chance with a stolen base, they likely would not have scored.
Bottom line: You don’t see many choppers up the middle hit second base and carom away for a run-scoring infield single, as Alex Gordon’s did.
But the Royals put themselves in position to take full advantage of the break when Hosmer stole second with two outs and came around on the strange hit.
“Are you kidding me?” Ausmus said when asked about the play.
Smyly (3-6) pitched a fine game. He allowed two runs on eight hits, walked none and struck out six in seven innings.
It was the third consecutive start in which he gave up fewer than three runs. But he won only one.
Kansas City’s Jeremy Guthrie (4-6) was a tad better, allowing one run on four hits in 62⁄3 innings.
Guthrie exited in the seventh when Nick Castellanos hit a double off the wall in left, one out after J.D. Martinez’s home run.
“I thought it was going to be a home run for sure,” Ausmus said.
Castellanos was stranded by Don Kelly’s liner to center.
In addition to his home run that got the Tigers on the scoreboard, Martinez singled in the second and was robbed of a potential run-scoring hit in the fourth by Gordon’s fine catch in left.
Scoring chances were too few and too far between for the Tigers, though.