DETROIT — The Royals, in just eight days, have played their way from the cusp of long-sought contention to the brink of another late-summer stroll through oblivion.
By BOB DUTTON
The Kansas City Star
Thats a bad eight days.
It This was more of the same Saturday in an 8-7 loss to the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park unless you choose to take heart in a ninth-inning comeback that ended one run short.
You cant wait until the last inning to get it done, said Alex Gordon, whose leadoff walk ignited a three-run outburst against Tigers closer José Valverde in a non-save situation.
It was a good effort, but its asking a lot to score four runs in the ninth. Its just one of those things. Right now, when we hit, we dont pitch. When we pitch, we dont hit. We need to figure that out.
The Royals jumped early on struggling Detroit starter Doug Fister, but it didnt matter because the Tigers mauled an ineffective Bruce Chen for five runs in the first two innings.
I feel very bad because I didnt pitch well, said Chen, who allowed six runs and nine hits in just 31/3 innings. I felt proud of my teammates. They made a real good comeback, but I gave up too many runs early in the game. That was the difference.
Chens struggles put the Royals in a game of catch-up, and they never quite got there. The result was their seventh loss in nine games on an 11-game trip that ends today, when Everett Teaford seeks to prevent the Tigers from completing a three-game sweep.
Eight days ago, the Royals, after opening this season-long trip with a victory at Minnesota, were just four games under .500 their closest point to break-even since a 12-game April skid dropped them to 3-14.
Now, they are 37-46 and a season-worst 91/2 games behind first-place Chicago in the American League CentralDivision.
We thought we had busted the door down, third baseman Mike Moustakas said. We thought we were right there, and were still right there. Were still knocking. But we cant knock anymore. Somethings got to happen so we can break out of this thing.
Its coming soon.
It almost came in the ninth, when Detroit manager Jim Leyland summoned Valverde to protect an 8-4 lead. Valverde had worked 14 scoreless innings against the Royals in his last 14 appearances but all of those were save situations.
Maybe that made a difference.
Anyway Gordon led off with a walk and went to third on Alcides Escobars double, his third hit of the game, a double. A walk to Eric Hosmer loaded the bases with no outs and brought the tying run to the plate.
Billy Butlers looping single produced two runs and put the tying run on base in Jason Bourgeois, who replaced Butler as a pinch runner. Yuniesky Betancourts fly to deep center lifted the bench in hopeful anticipation, but Austin Jackson ran it down.
I knew it wasnt out, Betancourt said. I hit it too high. I thought I had a chance for a double.
Instead, it was just a long out that moved Hosmer to third while Bourgeois held at first. Jackson then made another fine play by charging in to catch Moustakas soft, sinking liner.
Off the bat, Moustakas said, I thought it was going to get down, but that guy is such a good center fielder.
Hosmer scored on the sacrifice fly, which closed the gap to one. Bourgeois then stole second, but Valverde struck out Jeff Francoeur for the victory.
You can take some positives from it, Moustakas said. We showed some resiliency, but it just wasnt enough. At the end of the day, theyre on the other side with a W, and were over here.
Fister entered the game at 1-6 after surrendering 15 runs and 17 hits over 81/3 innings in his two previous starts. And the Royals jumped on him early by scoring two runs in the first inning on four singles.
Chen gave it right back.
Jackson opened the Detroit half of the first by extending his career-best hitting streak to 14 games with a single to left. After as sacrifice moved Jackson to second, Chen struck out Miguel Cabrera before Prince Fielder pulled a full-count offering for a two-run homer.
I made good pitches to Cabrera, Chen said, but I fell behind on Prince. I left a fastball a little bit up, and he hit it out.
The game got away from Chen, 7-8, in a three-run second inning.
Jhonny Peralta served a one-out single into left and went to third when Ramon Santiago pulled a double past a diving Moustakas at third.
Gerald Lairds soft liner to right center fell between Francoeur and Jarrod Dyson. One run scored as Laird turned the play into a hustle double and another run scored after the ball got through Betancourt on a sweep-tag attempt at second.
The scorer assessed the error to Dyson.
Jackson made it 5-2 with an RBI single into center before Chen ended the inning.
Bruce never got locked in today, manager Ned Yost said. He just never did.
The Tigers went (fairly) quietly in the third before starting in again on Chen in the fourth. Santiago led off with a double along the left-field line before a walk and a single loaded the bases with no outs.
Chen struck out Quintin Berry before Yost went to the bullpen for Nate Adcock to face Cabrera, who hit a sacrifice fly but the Royals ended the inning when Hosmer cut Francoeurs throw and trapped Laird between bases for the final out.
Moustakas got one run back with a two-out homer in the fifth.
The Royals did sneak back to 6-4 on Betancourts sacrifice fly in the seventh after Fister, 2-6, exited following a leadoff walk. But a relay of four relievers bridged the game to Valverde before the Royals stirred to life.
Detroit seemed to snuff any budding comeback when Delmon Young rocked a two-out, two-run homer in the seventh against Adcock after a Moustakas error extended the inning.
Turned out, that was the game-winner.
To reach Bob Dutton, call 816-234-4352 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Royals_Report.