Tigers overcome sloppy bullpen, take opener from Royals

Chris McCosky, The Detroit News


Kansas City, Mo. — The Tigers weren’t looking for style points and could not care less about aesthetics.

They came into Kauffman Stadium Monday hunting a victory. And after losing six of the first eight on this three-city trip, they didn’t care how they got it or what it looked like.

“We understand we aren’t playing good right now,” Miguel Cabrera said, after his two-run single capped a decisive four-run eighth-inning in the Tigers’ 10-7 win over the Kansas City Royals. “But we are professionals and we’ve got to come every day here and play hard and do our job. We did a better job of that today and we’ve got to come tomorrow and try to win again.”

This game, between the two bottom-dwellers in the American League Central, was mostly a mess. Neither team seemed eager, or capable, of holding a lead. There were 11 walks, two wild pitches and a hit batsman.

BOX SCORE: Tigers 10, Royals 7

“I think we came with that mentality today to slow the game down a little,” Cabrera said. “Don’t try to do too much because everybody here wants to get the big hit, wants to score three runs at a time. I think we were pushing too hard.

“It might not seem like that on the outside, but I feel it in here. I see how hard everybody wants to do it.”

The pressure valve was released, first with a six-run fifth inning. And then, after the Tigers bullpen — which had been rock solid most of this month — gave back a three-run lead plus one, the offense came right back with the clinching rally in the eighth.

“The offense perking up, that was the bright spot tonight,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said.

The Tigers roughed up their former teammate Joakim Soria in the eighth. He gave up three singles and two walks to the five batters he faced and was booed off the mound by the normally docile Royals faithful.

Four of those five scored.

Justin Upton started it off with a single. Alex Presley had an RBI single. Nick Castellanos, who walked, scored on a wild pitch. And, off reliever Matt Strahm, Cabrera ripped a two-run single.  

“If I see anybody in here, or I see myself, not doing everything right — I will let you know,” Cabrera said. “But I see everybody trying hard. Everybody wants to do their job. Baseball is hard and it’s a long season.

“I’ve got faith. I’ve got a lot of faith that we’re going to come through this hard stretch and we’re going to play good baseball."

The Tigers trailed 3-0 entering the fifth when, finally, they took advantage of some free bases. In the four-game series against the White Sox, the Tigers were handed 18 free passes (walks and hit batsmen) and not one of them scored.

Royals starter Jason Hammel, who held the Tigers in check for four innings, walked three in the fifth. All of them scored, plus three others.

Cabrera walked with the bases loaded for the first run, scoring Presley, who led off with a walk. Royals manager Ned Yost lifted Hammel for left-hander Mike Minor.

Victor Martinez, who made the final out in the first and third innings with runners in scoring position, ripped a first-pitch double down the line in left scoring Jose Iglesias (who singled) and Alex Avila (who walked).

J.D. Martinez then cleared the deck with a three-run, 435-foot blast to left field. It was his eighth home run in just 50 at-bats since he came off the disabled list. He had been in a 0-for-18 skid until that swing.

“That three-run home run by J.D. capped that inning and took some of the pressure off right there,” Ausmus said. “But then we gave the lead right back, so …”

Shane Greene, who hadn’t allowed a run since May 16, faced four batters in the sixth and got one out. Two runs scored on a bases-loaded walk and sacrifice fly, both against Blaine Hardy.

“Greeney has been outstanding for us,” Ausmus said. “Quite frankly, he might be our best pitcher out of the bullpen this past month. But I didn’t think he was sharp. It was a tough decision (to go to Hardy) but I ended up going with the lefty-lefty matchup.”

Hardy ended up walking Alex Gordon to force in a run.

Then in the seventh, Francisco Rodriguez was tagged for an opposite-field, two-run home by Eric Hosmer.

“I don’t even know how Hosmer hit it based on where the pitch was,” Ausmus said. “But he hit it well.”

No harm, no foul.

The Tigers rallied and the Wilson Brothers (not technically blood related) — Alex Wilson and Justin Wilson — put up zeros in the eighth and ninth innings to lock it down.

Tigers starter Daniel Norris, again with dynamic stuff, had another outing shortened by a high pitch count. He was at 96 pitches after five innings.

Were it not for Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield, his day would have been a lot better. Merrifield was a single shy of a cycle.

He homered off Norris in the third. Then he tripled in the second run and scored the third on a single by Jorge Soler in the fourth.

Merrifield also doubled off Greene and then came up in the seventh needing a single to become the 13th player to hit for the cycle against the Tigers and the first since Gary Matthews on Sept. 13, 2006.

But he flew out to right.


Twitter.com: @cmccosky