Tigers get bad break, then bullpen shatters
Kansas City, Mo. — The final score read 10-3, a blowout win for the Kansas City Royals.
But it could have been very different had things bounced a little better for the Tigers in the seventh inning.
“It was a crazy sequence of events that we weren’t able to cash in on,” catcher James McCann said.
The Royals had just taken a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth. Salvador Perez ended Tigers rookie Michael Fulmer’s scoreless innings streak at 33 1/3 with a long home run to left field.
It looked like the Tigers were going to answer right away against Royals starter Yordano Ventura.
Victor Martinez led off with a single and went to second when the ball skipped by Lorenzo Cain in center field. Martinez slipped and nearly fell down coming out of the batter’s box and barely made to second safely.
With one out, Justin Upton reached on a throwing error by third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert. But Martinez was going back to second and couldn’t advance.
That ended the night for Ventura. Kelvin Herrera was summoned.
Steven Moya, after falling behind 0-2, battled back into the count and scorched one up the middle. Second baseman Whit Merrifield made a spectacular diving stab and flipped to second for the force out. Martinez advanced to third.
With McCann batting, Herrera threw a wild pitch to the backstop. Martinez came halfway to the plate, stopped and retreated to third, unaware that catcher Perez didn’t pick the ball up cleanly.
“It’s a close backstop here and the ball kicks up and you can’t really tell how it’s going to bounce back,” McCann said. “Salvy (Perez, Royals catcher) ended up not fielding it cleanly, but we can’t predict that. Had he fielded it cleanly, Vic is out by three feet.
“The ball really has to kick away badly to score.”
McCann, after a fierce 10-pitch at-bat, grounded out to first.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus was asked if he thought about using a pinch-runner for Martinez.
“Not in the seventh inning,” he said. “His bat would come around in the ninth and I would have been upset if he wasn’t there to hit.”
That became a moot point, though. In fact, by the time Martinez’s spot in the order came around in the ninth, the Tigers were down 10-1, and Mike Aviles pinch-hit for him.
The Tigers bullpen wound up melting down. Shane Greene gave up three runs in less than an inning. Mark Lowe allowed three hits and a run and then Blaine Hardy was torched for five runs in the eighth, including a three-run homer by Kendrys Morales.
“We can’t keep going to Greene and (Justin) Wilson all the time in one-run games,” Ausmus said. “Somebody else has to step up. That’s the basic fact.”
If there was a backbreaking at-bat in that Royals surge, it was Eric Hosmer’s in the seventh.
Greene, who finished the sixth inning with a strikeout, gave up a single and a walk with one out. The Tigers had left-hander Hardy ready in the bullpen, but Ausmus stuck with Greene against left-handed hitting Hosmer.
“As long as it was a one-run game, I was going to leave Greene in,” Ausmus said. “He has done an excellent job against righties and lefties since he’s been in the ’pen. So I was staying with Greene, and as soon as they scored the second run, I wanted to keep his pitch-count down and get him out.”
Hosmer singled to make it 2-0 and the floodgates were open.
But that decision was rendered moot, too. Hosmer came to bat against Hardy in the eighth and lined a two-run single off him.
Ausmus is running out of relievers he can trust in high-leverage situations — Greene, Alex Wilson, Justin Wilson and Francisco Rodriguez. Justin Wilson was shut down for two days with elbow soreness. He has been available the last three days.
Farmer sent down
After the game, the Tigers sent right-hander Buck Farmer back to Toledo.
They did not immediately announce a corresponding move, but it is believed veteran corner infielder Casey McGehee will be signed to the 40-man roster and brought up to provide another right-handed hitting bat off the bench.
The Tigers have been one position player short for the better part of the last month.