Light schedule forces tightened rotation; Hardy to bullpen

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers pitcher Blaine Hardy is 3-3 with a 3.77 ERA in 19 games this season, including nine starts.

Kansas City, Mo. — It’s back to the bullpen for a while for versatile Tigers lefty Blaine Hardy. This time, he is a victim of an uncommonly light stretch of scheduling.

“We are trying to keep the four guys somewhere near a five-day schedule,” manager Ron Gardenhire said before Wednesday's game. “Hardy will go back to the 'pen more often than not. We just have to keep those other guys throwing.

“With all these days off, it’s silly to give them all seven or eight days of rest.”

The Tigers are off Thursday, before playing a three-game series with the Indians this weekend at Comerica Park. They are off Monday. Then, after a two-game home set against the Reds, they have bookend off-days before (Aug. 2) and after (Aug. 9) a West Coast trip to Oakland and Anaheim.

“These guys need to pitch,” Gardenhire said. “They are so routine-oriented, when you get them out of their routine, it gets tough.”

More: Tigers dust off old-fashioned pitchout play against Royals

The Tigers will use Mike Fiers, Francisco Liriano and Jordan Zimmermann against the Indians. Matthew Boyd, who started the finale Wednesday against the Royals, will pitch against the Reds on July 31.

Although it’s not set in stone, that rotation could remain in place, staying on a five-day schedule, up to Aug. 7 at Anaheim, before a fifth starter would be needed. The Tigers could either give Hardy a spot start, or use Liriano on four days of rest.

This, Gardenhire said, was not structured as a bridge to when Michael Fulmer returns from the disabled list. It was only to keep the top four starters on a five-day routine through the light schedule.

“No, we have no idea how long that’s going to be,” Gardenhire said. “With an oblique injury, you have to be really, really careful. He could feel great, get on the mound and then something could pop. We’re not going to take any chances.”

Mound issues

Matthew Boyd was pitching from the extreme third-base side of the pitching rubber on Wednesday — something he hadn't done all season. Clearly, he had found a way to get his fastball inside on right-handed hitters more consistently, right?

Wrong. It was about comfort, not pitch location.

"That mound wasn't good today," said Boyd, who allowed two runs in six innings and earned his first win since June 7. "It was really dry when we started out and it was kind of beating up my foot as the hole got dug."

He decided to make the third-base side of the rubber his because Royals starter Danny Duffy had already dug into the first-base side.

"That mound dried up really quickly," Boyd said. "What happens is, it puts a lot of pressure on your foot. It wasn't feeling too good."

He was very effective locating his fastball in on right-handed hitters, though. Did the positioning help at all?

"Yes and no," he said. "We're talking about a couple of inches here. It's not that big a deal. Sometimes you have to adapt."

Tit for tat

The game feature two extremely gifted and flamboyant shortstops — the Tigers' Jose Iglesias and the Royals' Alcides Escobar. They took turns one-upping each other late in the game.

First Iglesias robbed Escobar in the bottom of the seventh. He ranged deep into the hole at shortstop and somehow, with his momentum carrying him into left field, he was able jump and flip the ball to first base — with enough zip that it beat Escobar even after it bounced twice.

Escobar returned the favor in the top of the eighth. He fielded Iglesias' ball behind second base, made a 180-degree pivot and threw him out.

"That's what the game is supposed to be," Iglesias said. "I take a hit away from him. He takes one away from me. We're even."

Around the horn

The Tigers hadn't won a series against the Royals since June 27-29, 2017. They had gone 0-4-3 in the previous seven. It was just their third road series win of the season.

... Victor Martinez has 140 RBIs in his career against the Royals. He passes Jim Thome for second all-time. Only Paul Konerko (150) has more RBIs against the Royals.

... John Hicks was 0 for 13 before doubling in his first at-bat. He got two hits and was on base four times.