Detroit – The Tigers had a chance to complete a rather dubious hat trick against the Kansas City Royals Sunday.
They have won two home series all season. That’s all. Both were at the expense of the Royals and the last came way back on May 3-5. They had dropped 13 straight home series and were swept in seven of those.
Hat trick denied.
Behind twin wrecking balls Hunter Dozier and Jorge Soler, the Royals gained a split of the four-game set with a 10-2 win. Dozier and Soler each homered twice and knocked in seven of the 10 runs.
"We're just going game by game here," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Yes, I'm disappointed. Yes, they are disappointed out there. But we just ended a stretch of a lot of baseball in not many days.
"Everybody is ready for the day off (Monday). The doubleheader (against the White Sox) beat the fire out of us after the long road trip. Just a lot of baseball. We all need a break."
The Tigers went 5-15 in the just-completed stretch of 20 games in 19 days. They are 16-41 at Comerica Park this season and, according to research by MLB.com, need to win six of their remaining 24 games to avoid becoming the first team in Major League history to lose 60 home games.
"It's frustrating, for sure," catcher John HIcks said.
One bright note, they won't have to face Dozier or Soler at Comerica again this season.
Dozier homered twice on Thursday against Matthew Boyd, tripled in a run on Saturday, and then homered twice again and had 11 total bases on Sunday.
Soler is an inveterate Tiger killer. He came into Sunday slashing .386/.429/.825 with six home runs (four at Comerica) against the Tigers this season.
Update: Soler and Dozier each now have six home runs at Comerica this season; only JaCoby Jones (seven) has hit more.
Soler, whose two homers Sunday totaled 821 feet in distance, had five RBIs on Sunday, including a two-run double in the ninth.
"We didn't do a good job of making those guys aware of the fastball in," Hicks said. "Both of those guys were just staying out and looking for stuff away and when they got it, they hit it.
"That's on all of us. Especially with big guys like that, you have to make them aware. I'm not saying throw at them, but you have to move them a little bit to let them know, 'Hey, we're going to throw the inside.' We didn't do that."
The victims on Sunday were Daniel Norris and Drew VerHagen.
Gardenhire said on Saturday that he might start using piggy-back starts to help reduce the workload on Norris, who is approaching his innings limit for 2019. But this is not what he had in mind.
"No, we didn't envision this," he said. "We didn't envision 80 pitches in three innings. Danny needs to do better. He had a bad day."
Norris gave up solo home runs to Whit Merrifield and Dozier in the first inning, then, after a triple by Dozier, a 415-foot home run into the visitor’s bullpen by Soler. All four of those extra-base hits came off Norris’ fastball.
The Royals put seven of his heaters in play with an average exit velocity of 101 mph.
There were mitigating circumstances.
"He didn't have his change-up," Hicks said. "He didn't have it in the bullpen and he didn't have it in his three innings. And that has been his best pitch lately."
Because of a blister, he was unable to find a comfortable grip on the change-up, He threw 21 of them, but most were outside the strike zone.
"I tried to change my grip just to see if I could find a comfortable way to throw it but I couldn't find it," Norris said. "They just eliminated the pitch and crushed the fastball. I couldn't get them off it."
VerHagen cruised through four scoreless innings before Dozier and Soler struck again, hitting back-to-back bombs in the seventh. Those were the only hits VerHagen allowed.
"If you let those guys get their arms extended, that ball goes along way," Gardenhire said. "You saw how strong those two young men are. Even on a breaking ball that fooled him a little bit, Soler still reached out and hit it out."
After scoring 15 runs in the first two games of this series, the Tigers mustered just two the last two games.
Niko Goodrum accounted for the lone two runs off Royals starter Jakob Junis. He hit his 11th home run of the season in the first inning, wrapping one around the right-field foul pole. Then in the third he singled home Gordon Beckham, who had doubled to start the inning.
There were 19 home runs hit in this series, 13 by the Royals.