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Feeble Tigers end 'blah' trip with 13-inning loss

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Cheslor Cuthbert, center, is chased down by Brett Eibner, left, and Paulo Orlando, right, as they celebrate his game-winning hit in the 13th inning.

Kansas City, Mo. — And so the grueling, 10-game, three-city trip ended Sunday with a third straight loss to the Kansas City Royals. Two were lopsided and embarrassing, by a combined score 26-8. The last was exhausting and frustrating in 13 steamy innings.

The final scene was the Tigers walking dejectedly off the field while the Royals mobbed Cheslor Cuthbert after his single through a drawn-in infield off reliever Kyle Ryan ended the marathon, 2-1.

It was a 4-6 trip, and the Tigers, just 1 1/2 games out of first after winning Thursday night, come home once again on the bad side of .500.

Asked to sum up the trip, manager Brad Ausmus put it about as eloquently as it deserved.

BOX SCORE: Royals 2, Tigers 1 (13 innings)

“Blah,” he said. “There’s not a lot to say about it. I guess we’ll just go home.”

Nobody in the clubhouse afterward was accepting silver linings or moral victories. This game was ripe for the taking and the Tigers didn't get it done.

It started with Jordan Zimmermann giving the Tigers exactly what they needed — eight strong innings. He allowed just four hits with no walks and five strikeouts.

“Today was good,” he said. “I had three or four rough starts and didn’t really feel like myself out there. But today I was much better. I felt good all day. Everything was working, all four pitches and I didn’t even use my change-up except for a couple pitches.  My slider was really good.”

He only paid for one mistake. He hung a slider to Paulo Orlando in the fifth and that set up an RBI ground out by Brett Eibner. He retired 11 straight hitters before being pulled after the eighth inning.

He was at 93 pitches.

“I kind of figured I was going out for the ninth,” Zimmermann said. “(Ausmus) wanted to hand it off to the bullpen. I told him I was fine for the ninth. He said, ‘You did your job today.’ And I handed it off to the bullpen. And they did well.”

Ausmus said he was very tempted to let Zimmermann pitch the ninth.

“But the truth is, they were coming around to the fourth time through their lineup,” he said. “He was at 93 pitches. A couple of guys get on and I have to take him out and you bring someone in with men on base. You’d rather have them start with a clean inning.”

It worked out just fine. Justin Wilson and Shane Greene each pitched a scoreless inning. And Bruce Rondon, just called up from Toledo, might have pitched the two most impressive innings of his career.

“He did an excellent job,” Ausmus said. “He has a different delivery with a quicker leg kick. It was not only effective, but it seemed like his fastball was getting on guys more than in the past.”

His fastball still rings in between 97-100 mph, but his his command was better and his slider much sharper. He got six straight outs in the 11th and 12th, finishing his day by striking out Eric Hosmer on a couple of nasty sliders.

“That’s the first time I’ve really seen him pitch in live action,” Zimmermann said. “If he keeps pitching like this, he’s going to be up here a long time.”

But while the Tigers pitchers were putting up zeros, so were the Tigers hitters.

Once again, they were stifled by Royals soft-tossing right-hander Chris Young. He has struggled this season, posting a 6.15 ERA, and he hadn’t gotten through five innings in any of his four previous starts.

But the Tigers are his tonic. He came in with a 4-0 record and 1.71 ERA in six starts against them. This one was more of the same.

He essentially made one mistake in six innings. Steven Moya ambushed a first-pitch fastball leading off the third inning and hit it 442 feet beyond the bullpen and into the bleachers in right field.

It was Moya’s first major league home run.

Jordan Zimmermann fires in the first inning Sunday.

“He’s been tough against our team, even when he was in Seattle a couple years ago,” Ausmus said. “He’s consistently stuck it to us and he did it again today… He’s tall and throwing on a downhill plane. The ball kind of rides up, so it looks like it’s at the waist and it’s really two inches above the belly button.”

The Tigers then went meekly against a trio of relievers — Joakim Soria, Kelvin Herrera (struck out the side) and Wade Davis — from the seventh through the ninth.

Moya, who had three of the Tigers’ five hits, singled off Peter Moylan in the 10th. It was just the second Tigers hit since the third inning. They would only get one more the rest of the way.

“You’ve got to find a way to win the game,” Ausmus said. “That’s how I feel, really. Zimmermann gave us eight innings and the bullpen overall did a nice job. The Royals were just able to scratch out a run. But we have to find a way to get a win.”

Twitter @cmccosky