Tigers squander 6-run lead to Royals, lose sixth straight on road
Kansas City, Mo. — Normally, a loss like the Tigers endured Saturday night would leave a bruise, one that might linger for a bit. But, as their manager reminded, there's no crying in baseball.
"It's a bad loss, a tough loss, however you want to describe it," AJ Hinch said. "But the clock is going to strike midnight eventually and we're going to get to the next day. We have a big game tomorrow with Tarik Skubal on the mound.
"Our guys will be ready to play."
On a night the heat index climbed over 100 degrees, the Tigers saw a 6-0 lead go up in flames. Powered by two long and loud three-run home runs, the Royals celebrated Alex Gordon Day at Kauffman Stadium with a rousing 9-8 win.
"It's always tough losing," said Jeimer Candelario, who slugged a three-run home run and also struck out on a check swing with the tying run on second base to end the game. "We're a team that never gives up. It's a battle every single day. We expect always to win the game.
"This was a tough one. Just turn the page and come tomorrow expecting to get a really nice win."
After scoring four times in the bottom of the fifth against starter Casey Mize, the Royals scored five off reliever Kyle Funkhouser in the seventh.
Carlos Santana, with two on and one out, drove a 97-mph, 3-2 sinker from Funkhouser 422 feet beyond the Royals’ bullpen in right field. The three-run shot flipped what started out as a pleasant script for the Tigers.
"(Funkhouser) made some key mistakes and he had some hitters that were able to do damage," Hinch said. "He yanked that fastball to Santana where it was kind of hard for him to miss. And things kind of fell apart for him a little bit. It wasn't his sharpest outing and they kept pecking away at him."
Funkhouser, who had allowed just one run in his last 17.1 innings, exited with two on and two out. Lefty Ian Krol was summoned to face left-handed hitter Ryan O’Hearn. But Royals manager Mike Matheny countered with right-handed hitting Hanser Alberto.
He drove a two-run triple over Derek Hill’s reach in center. That ended up being the margin of victory after the Tigers made things very interesting in the top of the ninth.
Rookie Akil Baddoo blasted a two-run home run to right field off veteran closer Greg Holland in the top of the ninth to make it one-run game. With two outs, though, Holland walked Robbie Grossman and Miguel Cabrera.
Matheny summoned another aging reliever, another teammate of Gordon's, Wade Davis, to face Candelario. With the tying run on second base, Candelario was called out on a 2-2 pitch. It looked like Candelario had checked his swing, but third base umpire Ryan Additon said he went too far.
Before the game, Gordon, the retired Royals great, threw out the ceremonial first pitch — from left field. He threw a perfect strike on one-hop to Salvador Perez at the plate. Just like old times in Kansas City. Perez had his own highlight in the third — ruining Mize's day in the process.
Mize cruised through four innings on just 62 pitches and went into the fifth with a 6-run cushion. He would only get two more outs. Three straight singles plated one run and then with two out, Mize left a 1-1 two-seamer over the heart of the plate and Perez slammed it into the fountains in left center — a 454-foot, three-run shot.
"Salvy made a really good adjustment on Mize," Hinch said. "It looked like he was sitting heater. He even backed up off the plate a little bit. He hunted it, got it and didn't miss it. It completely changed the complexion of Casey's outing."
Mize had allowed three runs or fewer in 14 straight starts dating to April 29.
"I haven't had an inning like that in a long time where it kind of snowballed on me," Mize said. "A few singles to start the inning. I got two outs and Salvy put a good swing on one. That was going to be my last inning of the game and it was definitely not how I envisioned it."
Mize didn't hate the pitch selection to Perez. But if he could do it over again, he would have got the pitch more inside, even if it was off the plate.
"Our offensive production was stellar and we played great defense," Mize said. "I hate that I didn't throw the ball better and give us a better chance to win. We were up 6-0 and honestly, if I find a way to get Salvy and we get out of the inning up 6-1, I think we win the game.
"I'm really disappointed in how I let the guys down."
Cabrera had a single, scored a run and knocked in two with sacrifice play. That was career RBIs Nos. 1,769 and 1,770. He now ranks 20th on the all-time RBI chart.
Candelario's seventh home run of the year came off a 2-2 change-up. He hit it 434 feet into the batter’s eye in center.
"I was just looking for a pitch I could handle," Candelario said. "It was 2-2, I had to be able to be ready for any kind of mistake he might make. I have to be ready all the time in a great position to hit the ball."
The Tigers have lost six straight road games.