As the baseball soared through the night, Eric Hosmer took a moment to admire his work. He clutched his bat in his hands and held a follow-through pose for a split second. He shifted his eyes toward the night sky, tracking the orbit of his blast. Moments later, he broke into a trot, peering at his teammates in the first-base dugout.
All Wednesday night at Comerica Park, the Royals had subsisted on a diet of singles, peppering the Detroit pitching staff with hits and runs and contact. In a 16-2 victory over the Tigers — a blowout that featured a bench-clearing skirmish in the ninth inning — Hosmer offered a moment of thunder, delivering the finishing combination in the top of the seventh.
In a nine-run inning, Hosmer clubbed his first career grand slam, roping a 408-foot shot off Tigers reliever Warwick Saupold. The moment put a punctuation mark on a three-game sweep in Motown and a season-long winning streak. By the end, Hosmer had finished 5 for 6, matching his career high in hits. He added six RBIs and five runs scored.
“As a team,” Hosmer said, “we’re in a good spot right now.”
The blast electrified the Royals dugout — catcher Salvador Perez offered a rapturous scream upon contact — and guaranteed the winning streak would stretch to eight games. The decimation manifested into frustration for the Tigers when reliever Bruce Rondon plunked Mike Moustakas in the top of the ninth.
In seconds, Moustakas spiked his bat in anger and shouted toward the mound, stepping toward Rondon. Tigers catcher James McCann jumped in front and attempted to calm the situation. In moments, the benches and bullpens had cleared. The situation did not escalate — the anger was confined to words and glares. Yet, in the middle of the action, Royals starter Danny Duffy was incensed at the pitch.
“If he doesn’t want to compete in a situation that’s not sexy,” Duffy said, “they should just send his (butt) home.”
As the dust-up began, Duffy entered the fray and screamed at Rondon. He was cut off by Detroit starter Justin Verlander. Moments later, Duffy had to be restrained by a member of the coaching staff near the first-base line.
“That’s the second time he’s done that,” he said.
In the moments after the victory, the Royals appeared perplexed by what had transpired. They had scored 16 runs and piled up a season-high 22 hits. They did not feel the performance deserved retribution.
“Who knows?” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “It’s not very smart.”
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Hosmer said.
“I think he was trying to hit me,” Moustakas said. “I don’t really know.”
In the Tigers’ clubhouse, Rondon did not speak to reporters. Yet it appeared possible that he took some level of offense to Lorenzo Cain scoring on a single from second base in the top of the ninth. Moments later, Moustakas came to the plate. Rondon came inside with the first pitch before drilling him with the second. He was ejected after the brawl.
“We were going to keep playing baseball the way the game was supposed to be played,” Moustakas said. “And I don’t think we did anything out of control. Lo-Cain scored from second base. And that’s what you do. And we’re not going to quit.”
Let’s reset. Because before the late drama, before the winning streak reached eight games and the offense scored 16 runs for the second time in seven days, the Royals’ nine-run seventh inning had offered a snapshot at two different sides of a surging offense.
As the inning began, the offense pieced together a rally with two doubles, five singles and a hit by pitch. The attack appeared relentless, hit after hit after hit. And then Hosmer stepped to the plate. With one swing, he cranked the first homer of the night and the Royals’ 14th in their last five games. In the end, 12 men would come to the plate, the outburst equaling the team’s most productive inning of the season.
For now, then, the freight train rolls on. The Royals piled up a season-high 22 hits, chasing Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez after 3 2/3 innings. Ten different players reached base. They have scored 63 runs in their last eight games.
As the offense purred, starter Ian Kennedy surrendered just one run in six innings. The bullpen continued its dominant run, stretching its streak without an earned run allowed to 30 1/3 innings.
When the night was over, the Royals (53-47) stood six games over .500 for the first time this season. Their eight-game winning streak is the longest by the team since it won nine straight during Aug. 14-23, 2016, a mantis-fueled bender that featured a franchise-record-breaking scoreless streak by the bullpen. They will try to equal that mark Friday night at Fenway Park in Boston after enjoying a day off on Thursday.
“It’s great we got an off day, it really is,” Yost said. “But you kind of wish, geez, maybe we could have an off day three or four days from now, because we are playing so well.”
As the day began, the Royals sought to complete a second-straight three-game sweep. They faced off against Detroit’s Sanchez, a shell of the spectacular pitcher he once was. At 33 years old, Sanchez entered Wednesday with a 6.18 ERA in 18 appearances, including seven starts. The Kansas City offense did not take long to dig in.
They scored one run in the second and three in the third. They erupted for a nine-spot against the Tigers’ bullpen in the seventh before piling up three more in the ninth, an inning that featured some unanticipated drama.
When Hosmer recorded his fifth hit of the night, Cain scored from second. Moments later, Moustakas absorbed a 99 mph fastball in the right side.
“A game like that,” Moustakas said, “kind of getting out of control, just go drilling guys, I don’t really understand what happened. I knew after the first pitch he threw, it was inside. I knew I was getting another one in there. So it is what it is.”