Kansas City, Missouri — Ah, yes, first place versus second again — the Tigers and Royals.
For a series to be a showdown, though, both teams need to show up — which only one did Thursday night.
And that team, in a 16-4 trouncing, was the Tigers.
With three runs in the first, three more in the fourth, another here, another there, and a whopping eight in the fifth when the Royals came unglued on defense as well as everywhere else, the Tigers romped while increasing their lead in the American League Central to 5½ games.
Even more than they romped Tuesday night at home in a 14-5 pounding of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Comerica Park.
“It seemed like any time we got the bat on the ball,” said manager Brad Ausmus, “it found a spot.”
You can’t really say the game had “that” look for the Tigers from the moment Austin Jackson singled off ineffective Jeremy Guthrie (5-8) in the first inning against the Royals. That’s jumping the gun a bit.
Not even when Ian Kinsler followed Jackson’s hit with a hit-and-run single to right, putting Tigers at first-and-third with no outs in the first, was there a hint it would turn out as lopsided as it did.
But it didn’t take long for it to become the inevitable conclusion.
“I wasn’t overly confident about anything until midway through the game,” said Ausmus.
The last glance the Royals had of the Tigers sailing away from them was after K.C.’s Billy Butler cut the Tigers’ lead to 6-2 with a solo home run in the fourth.
It was Butler’s first home run at home since the one he hit in an 8-2 loss to the Tigers on May 2. Butler’s power, in other words, has not been a factor this season.
But the Royals were on the fringe of still having hope after four innings, only to have Torii Hunter quash it with a 428-footer leading off the fifth.
For the rest of that fifth inning, the Royals forgot how to pitch and play defense, while the Tigers kept remembering how to hit.
They eventually scored eight runs on eight hits and two errors in the fifth, as their four-run lead grew to 12.
If there was a moral to the story, it was this: It’s not automatically a “showdown” when a first-place team faces a second-place team.
So, if any of you thought of this series as such, you might have overlooked the fact that on their first visit to Kauffman Stadium this season, the Tigers won by scores of 8-2, 9-2 and 9-4.
“But they pounded us pretty good at our place,” said Ausmus, “so it’s kind of evened out a little bit.”
The Royals countered by taking three of four from the Tigers at Comerica Park last month when the Tigers were playing their worst baseball of the first half. The Royals even grabbed first place for a couple of days in that series.
But on Thursday night, they looked incapable of doing so again.
“These guys are major-league players over there,” Ausmus said of the Royals. “They’re pretty good at putting yesterday’s game behind them. I don’t think it will have any long-term effect.”
As for who drove in all the runs, who had all the hits, and who scored all the runs, we’ll table that for a moment by saying it was starter Drew Smyly (5-8) who benefited.
Allowing four runs on eight hits in 62⁄3 innings, Smyly won for just the second time in his last six starts.
The Tigers’ 19 hits were nicely balanced: Hunter had three of them, while six of his teammates had two each.
Hunter, J.D. Martinez and Miguel Cabrera had three RBIs each.
“It’s not a big series, it’s just another series,” Hunter said. “We just came ready to play. It was no statement. We’re just playing the game.”
“You don’t get caught up in June and early July thinking of something as a big series, because you have to go on to another series with another team.
“We just approach every day the same way.”
Sometimes it’s a struggle.
But sometimes it’s a 16-4 victory.