Royals win fourth in a row, clinch series against Tigers

Royals’ Jakob Junis and Ned Yost talk about win over the Tigers

Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Jakob Junis and manager Ned Yost talk about Junis bouncing back from a three-run second inning to get his ninth win of the season as the Royals beat the Detroit Tigers 5-4 at Kauffman Stadium on Sept. 4, 2019.
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Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Jakob Junis and manager Ned Yost talk about Junis bouncing back from a three-run second inning to get his ninth win of the season as the Royals beat the Detroit Tigers 5-4 at Kauffman Stadium on Sept. 4, 2019.

Perhaps the Royals have once again found that late-season groove that will dull some of those growing pains that have characterized most of the season.

Last season, they collected 15 wins in the season’s final month. This year, they’ve started September with three consecutive wins and a four-game win streak going back to the final game in August.

After a walk-off win on Tuesday night, the Royals continued to build momentum with a 5-4 win over the Detroit Tigers in front of an announced 15,308 at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday night. The Royals (52-89) clinched a series victory and can sweep all three games with a win Thursday.

Royals starting pitcher Jakob Junis, who made his 29th start of the season, gave up three runs in the second inning and then retired 16 of the final 19 batters he faced.

Junis (9-12) allowed four runs on seven hits in six innings plus one batter. Junis walked one, the final batter he faced, and struck out four.

“I gave up three or four hits in a row in that second inning,” Junis said. “It cost me three runs, but I was just glad that I settled in after that and kept us in the game. The offense came through when they needed to, got us a lead. Ian (Kennedy) shut it down in the end to lock it up.”

One night after breaking the franchise’s single-season home run record, Jorge Soler hit his 40th home run of the season, his 10th against the Tigers this season, and became the first player in Royals history to reach that benchmark.

Hunter Dozier’s fifth-inning triple tied him with teammates Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi for the team lead with nine each. They’re all tied for the American League lead along with Seattle Mariners speedster Mallex Smith.

Ryan McBroom, who joined the organization via trade over the weekend and made his major-league debut on Tuesday night, drove in the Royals’ first run on Wednesday. He went 2 for 4 with an RBI — his first RBI in the majors.

With the Royals trailing 3-0 in the fourth inning, McBroom hit an RBI single through the middle that scored Dozier and moved Alex Gordon to third base. Gordon scored on a wild pitch to make it a one-run deficit, 3-2.

Soler’s solo home run in the fifth inning tied the score. Dozier tripled and scored on a ball hit off the end of Gordon’s bat that Tigers third baseman Dawel Lugo knocked down but did not field cleanly. Dozier scored on the play to give the Royals a 4-3 lead.

Brett Phillips’ aggressive base running led to the deciding run. Phillips doubled on a ball hit into shallow right field with one out in the sixth inning. He made a heads-up play to get to second base after realizing none of the infielders had covered the bag.

“They were playing the shift,” Phillips said. “When I hit it, I saw that they both pinched on the ground ball. I saw that — out of my peripheral — that no one was covering second, so I took advantage of another base. Obviously, we’re giving ourselves a chance to score right there. It’s just a matter of playing the game hard and not being scared to take that extra base.”

Phillips stole third base, and Mondesi’s two-out single drove in Phillips with the fifth run to give the Royals a 5-3 edge.

“That’s his game. That’s his style of play,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of Phillips. “He plays all-out on defense and plays all-out on offense. Any time he hits the ball he’s sprinting. He’s always trying to play hustle baseball.”

The Tigers (40-97) got their fourth run after Junis left the game in the seventh without recording an out. He walked the leadoff batter, and reliever Scott Barlow gave up a two-out flare down the first base line to Miguel Cabrera to score the run.

Kennedy retired the side in order in the ninth for his 26th save.

The Royals wrap up their homestand on Thursday afternoon with their series finale against the Tigers. Right-hander Glenn Sparkman (3-10, 5.86) will start for the Royals, while the Tigers list left-hander Matthew Boyd (7-10, 4.58) as their scheduled starter.

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.