Kansas City, Mo. — Here’s what manager Ron Gardenhire was dealing with Thursday.
Because Tigers relievers had logged 17.2 innings over the last four days, including six innings in the 12-inning win Wednesday, the bullpen was thin. Very thin. Unavailable for duty Thursday were closer Shane Greene, set-up men Joe Jimenez and Daniel Stumpf, Alex Wilson and Buck Farmer.
What Gardenhire needed in the worst way was a long, quality start from Mike Fiers. At the very least, a long, quality outing from well-rested long reliever Chad Bell.
The Royals bashed three home runs — two of them well over 400 feet — and outslugged the Tigers 10-6 in the first of a four-game series.
“Every time we scored in the top half of an inning, we couldn’t get it shut down,” Gardenhire said. “When you score, you need a shut-down inning and we couldn’t do it.”
The Tigers were on the wrong end of the seesaw all day long. Fiers, who would last just four innings, gave up two runs in the first inning on three singles (one bounced off the bag at second) and a walk.
A two-run double by Jeimer Candelario tied the game 2-2 in the top of the third. But the Royals answered. Salvador Perez hit a two-run home run to re-establish the two-run lead.
The Tigers got one run back in the top of the fourth — a double by John Hicks and an RBI single by James McCann.
The Royals answered back in the bottom of the fourth — a 422-foot bomb to right field by Alex Gordon.
On and on it went.
“There’s got to be a time when I start making better pitches when we need it,” said Fiers, who was charged for five runs. “For our offense to come alive like that and to respond to every bad inning — it kind of sucks to keep giving up runs and not putting a stop to it.”
The Tigers again fought back to even. In the top of the fifth, Nick Castellanos, who had three hits and two RBIs on the day, launched his third home run of the season.
Later in the inning, after the Tigers chased Royals starter Eric Skoglund, Jose Iglesias greeted reliever Scott Barlow with an RBI single, squaring things at 5-5.
The tie lasted three pitches. Bell relieved Fiers in the bottom of the fifth and promptly hung a change-up. Jorge Soler knocked it 441 feet, well beyond the wall in right field.
Bell would face 11 hitters over a 1.2 innings, get just five outs and essentially break the seesaw. He would be charged with five runs. Two of them scored on a bases-loaded single by Lucas Duda off right-hander Warwick Saupold.
Bell was optioned back to Triple-A Toledo after the game. The Tigers are expected to recall another pitcher before the game Friday.
“You guys knew where we were at with our pitching coming in,” Gardenhire said. “There were five guys we weren’t going to use. They all said they would go, they wanted to pitch. But we’ve got our numbers and we weren’t going to use them. You have to say no sometimes.”
More to the point, though, Gardenhire added: “Somebody else has to get some outs for us.”
The Tigers, who had scored three runs or less in their four previous games, did bang out 15 hits. Leonys Martin had three singles. Dixon Machado, Hicks and Iglesias each had two hits.
But they were 4 for 14 with runners in scoring position.
“You can look at that two ways,” Gardenhire said. “We left a lot of guys on the bases or we got a lot of hits. We did our job offensively. We didn’t pitch well enough to win the ballgame.”