Detroit — They beat the rain by minutes. They lost to the Royals by a run.
This is how baseball can go in April. The day is cold, the air is wet. The hits are few.
Elements that included some hearty pitching by two teams translated Tuesday into a 1-0 Royals victory, their first of the season, against a Tigers team (1-4) that now has been shut out twice by 1-0 scores.
“Wasn’t very pretty out there,” said Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, “but both teams played in the same thing.”
Gardenhire conceded what every baseball player knows: “Weather’s a factor when you’re hitting.”
Based on forecasts even worse than the 40-degree air and gray skies at game time, it had seemed Tuesday would include an inevitable rained-out, rain-delayed, or rain-shortened day at Comerica Park
The Tigers got only three hits, all singles, and only twice had a serious scoring shot. As much as the rain-soaked refrigerator that passed for a game venue clobbered them Tuesday, the Royals pitched splendidly, beginning with starter Jakob Junis, who tore into the Tigers’ hands with his fastball and then tormented hitters with a biting slider.
Not that the Royals were faring much better against Matthew Boyd, nor his Tigers bullpen allies: Alex Wilson (1-2/3 innings, no hits, two strikeouts), Daniel Stumpf, and Drew VerHagen. The Royals had only five hits, four of them against Boyd, who lasted six innings and allowed the day’s lone run, in the second.
“He gave us a great opportunity to win,” Gardenhire said of Boyd, who Tuesday made his first start of 2018. “That’s all you ask for.”
The Royals needed a break to score the game’s sole run.
Leading off the second, Cheslor Cuthbert poked an opposite-field, pop-fly blooper over the head of Miguel Cabrera at first for a chalk-line hit Cuthbert turned into a hustling double.
Cabrera dropped the ball as he picked it up, but Cuthbert was on target for second and no error was charged.
Cuthbert then moved to third on Paulo Orlando’s deep fly to center. He scored on Jorge Soler’s line-drive sacrifice fly to center-fielder Leonys Martin.
Boyd was strong in his 88-pitch, four-hit work: no walks, one strikeout. He gave up some loud, deep outs early, but was generally ahead of hitters and pitched neatly considering the mound, in Tuesday’s mist, was steadily turning into mud.
“It was about as wet as the rest of the field,” said Boyd, who is from Oregon’s’ rain belt. “Luckily, I grew up in weather like this. You prefer 70 degrees and clear skies. But it’s easier to pitch in this than it is to hit in this.”
The Tigers had but two respectable scoring chances against the Royals.
In the third, Dixon Machado lured from Junis a walk and made it to third on Jeimer Candelario’s two-out single, all before Junis got Cabrera on a called, third-strike slider.
In the eighth, Mikie Mahtook led off with a single. Soon he was moving on a hit-and-run try when Jose Iglesias got under a Justin Grimm pitch and lofted it for a fly-out to left. A batter later, Mahtook had second base stolen on a 1-1 count to Dixon Machado, who swung and grounded hard to shortstop.
Mahtook’s sprint, which was his decision solely when Grimm was slow to the plate, kept the Tigers out of the double play. But it left Mahtook at second base with two outs and only a single scoring chance that blew up when Martin flew out to left.
“If he hits a hole,” said Gardenhire, referring to Machado’s swing on the pitch Mahtook chose to take second, “we’re all cheering him.”
Royals fireman Kelvin Herrera handled the ninth and put away the Tigers in order: Jeimer Candelario on a strikeout, Cabrera on a liner to right, and Nick Castellanos on a game-ending whiff.
“I’m in the dugout,” said Gardenhire, giving thanks for his shelter from the worst of early April’s climate in Detroit. “It’s not fun on these days.
“But both teams have to play in it.”