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Tigers fall flat in Kansas City as road skid hits 7: 'They punched us in the mouth early'

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Kansas City, Mo. — The Tigers will not visit Kauffman Stadium again this season and after the way things went this weekend, they’re probably OK with that.

And we’re not talking about the oppressive heat.

The Royals' Salvador Perez (13) celebrates with Carlos Santana (41) after hitting a three-run home run as Detroit Tigers catcher Eric Haase, center, looks on during the first inning.

The Royals hit three home runs in three innings off rookie left-hander Tarik Skubal Sunday and completed the three-game weekend sweep with a 6-1 win over the Tigers. It was the seventh road loss in the row for Detroit, who entered the series on a seven-game winning streak.

BOX SCORE: Royals 6, Tigers 1

"You know how I am about streaks," manager AJ Hinch said after the game. "We try to win today's game. I didn't even think about the series before the break. I just wanted to win today's game. I don't look into that stuff.

"I realize we missed some opportunities to win a game yesterday (blew a six-run lead) and today they punched us in the mouth early and we didn't recover."

The home run ball has been Skubal’s nemesis this season. The three homers, which totaled 1,307 feet in combined distance, put his total at 22 for the season — fourth most in the American League. All three came off his four-seam fastball.

"I got ambushed," Skubal said. "It's part of the game."

Salvador Perez hit a 454-foot, three-run shot in the first inning, his 23rd of the year. Jorge Soler followed with a 425-footer, putting the Tigers in a 4-0 hole before an out was recorded.

Soler struck again with two out in the third inning, blasting a 428-footer.  

"They're good fastball hitters against left-handed pitchers," Hinch said. "But I don't know if you have to pitch one way or another. Basically, location is going to matter and he leaked the ball (over the plate) on a couple of fastballs. When he did land his secondary pitches, they didn't have a lot of good swings at it.

"Sometimes in competition you have to go fastball against fastball hitters and a lot of times when you do that it can be dangerous. Today was an example of that."

Skubal's best pitch is his fastball. It's why he's in the big leagues and why the Tigers were 8-3 in his previous 11 starts. But, especially against a lineup up full of right-handed hitters — the Royals had eight of them in the lineup Sunday — he needs an off-speed pitch to keep them off-balance and unable to just lock in on the fastball. 

Skubal did not have his change-up Sunday.

"I threw a lot of them not even close to the strike zone," he said. "I need to have more consistent quality with the change-up to keep all those right-handed hitters at bay. Once I started working the slider more and executing that on first pitch and dictating the count — the results changed dramatically."

Soler's second home run was the only hit Skubal allowed after the first inning. He dispatched 15 of the last 16 hitters he faced through five innings.

"(Pitching coach Chris) Fetter came out and he just said continue to be aggressive," Skubal said. "You can't go back in time and change what already happened. That was the mindset for me. I can't reverse the time and take the runs off the board.

"I just had to continue to attack and eat as many innings as I could to save the bullpen arms."

Though it didn't change the outcome of this game, grinding through five innings was significant for the team going into a series in Minnesota.

"We needed him to settle himself down," Hinch said. "I didn't want to go get him in the second or third and deplete our bullpen going into the next series. He's a pro's pro. He knows how to readjust and settle in. It's just that first inning was tough to recover from." 

Especially given how rookie left-hander Daniel Lynch was pitching. The Tigers were unable to put up much resistance against him. Back in May, they tagged him for seven hits and four runs in 2.2 innings.

"He looked like a completely different pitcher," Hinch said. "He's one of their top prospects and you can see why they are so high on him.

Lynch breezed through eight innings, allowing just five hits.

Jonathan Schoop did extend his career-long hitting streak to 15 games with a double in the ninth off reliever Ervin Santana. He scored on a single by Eric Haase. 

The road doesn't get easier. 

The Tigers, who are 10 games into a 17-game, 16-day stretch, move on to Minnesota and Target Field, where they were swept in four games before the All-Star break.

Twitter: @cmccosky