Kansas City, Mo. – The Detroit Tigers kept fighting on Saturday. They just ran out of feedback.
They left the bases loaded in the seventh and ninth innings, allowing the Kansas City Royals to escape and even the series with a 7-5 victory at Kauffmann Stadium.
“We know we’ll be in every game,” said Tigers starter Matthew Boyd. “That’s what it comes down to. We have a winning mentality and we’ve really grown over the past four weeks.”
The loss ended a four-game winning streak and in the previous two wins the Tigers had come from behind.
“What a winning culture does, what a winning mindset does, it puts the game in an entirely different perspective,” manager AJ Hinch said ahead of the game. “When we fall behind early it’s like, ‘Let’s just find a way to run.’
“When you lose it’s like, ‘Oh, here we go.’ It is a drastic difference in mentalities.
On Friday night, Miguel Cabrera’s spectacular two-out grand slam in the seventh inning erased a two-point deficit and sent the Tigers to a 7-5 victory.
On Saturday, Cabrera came to bat again with bases loaded and two strikeouts in the seventh inning. This time the deficit was three. Lightning did not strike twice. Cabrera took a called-up third goal from reliever Scott Barlow.
Barlow, who took over from starter Brady Singer, asked Jeimer Candelario to watch a previous called-up third at bat.
Clutch job by veteran right hander.
“In reality, we’re going to keep fighting and playing the whole game,” Hinch said afterwards. “I’m proud of our efforts. We gave ourselves plenty of opportunities to score more points. But they outscored us and took the win.”
Shed 7-3 in the ninth, Robbie Grossman cut the deficit in half with a two-run homerun. And after a single from Harold Castro, a nine-length run from Candelario and a one-out single from Niko Goodrum, the basics were loaded.
But reliever Josh Staumont, who threw 36 shots in the inning, didn’t allow more damage. He pulled out Jonathan Schoop, getting a third strike from borderline 3-2, and Willi Castro swinging to end the game.
“You know you’re not going to be perfect every time,” said rookie Akil Baddoo, who had three hits and one walk. “But having that mindset is great. And we’re going to continue to have that confidence.”
It was a wobbly exit from starter Matthew Boyd, who gave up five runs in five innings despite not giving up a lot of difficult contact. The average exit speed over 18 balls put into play by the Royals was 81.9 mph.
But the balls had eyes, especially two hit by a southpaw hitting Andrew Benintendi. He hit two runs in the first inning with a shot from the opposite field (after falling into a hole 0-2), then, with a runner in the third and two strikeouts in the sixth, he shot one between the Castros. – shortstop Harold Castro and second baseman Willi Castro – to score the race.
“I could have been a bit sharper,” said Boyd, who walked three and struck out five. “I had a few chances to put the guys on the sidelines in the two-hit count and that didn’t happen.”
Boyd should never have been in such a traffic jam. Carlos Santana started with a single, then advanced to second on a flying ball down the center. Baddoo caught the ball on his heels and was unable to challenge Santana on second base.
The Tigers then gave Santana another 90 free feet, in the third, on a ball that went past wide receiver Wilson Ramos.
Boyd brought out Salvador Perez, knocked out Jorge Soler and was set to put Benintendi ahead of his RBI roll.
“We didn’t do enough to win the game,” Hinch said. “They did what they did, chain the bats and wreak havoc on the bases.”
The inning became even more frustrating for Boyd when he walked the next two hitters, both on tight pitches, to charge the bases. But Boyd didn’t crack.
After a visit from pitching coach Chris Fetter, he finished the round and his outing by knocking out Hanser Alberto, leaving the Tigers’ deficit to a manageable 5-3.
“I’m thankful he let me in to get this out,” Boyd said. “Sometimes that’s just how it shakes. You miss a bit, you’re not as sharp as you would like. I just felt like I couldn’t go three lengths in a row.
The Tigers gave the Royals seven free bases – four steps, three wild lands and two stolen bases. And the free bases eventually led to four of the Royals’ races, including what turned out to be a vital extra run in the seventh without a hitting.
With Joe Jimenez’s pitch, Benintendi – who else? – walked. He stole the undisputed second. No one covered second place and Ramos didn’t make a pitch.
“He just timed (Jimenez),” Hinch said. “When Joe looked away he took off. That’s a good recognition given by them. I’m sure they had a key on Joe, on what his head did before he delivered.”
Benintendi advanced 90 feet to third base when Ramos was unable to pick up a ball he stuck in the dirt. Then he sprinted home on a ground ball to stop Harold Castro, who didn’t play home plate even though he was playing on the grass.
“It’s a lot of bases to give up and it turned out to be critical,” Hinch said. “We also had our opportunities. We had a lot of traffic ourselves to create more runs. Unfortunately, tonight we didn’t.”