Glenn Sparkman struggled with command, home runs in Royals loss to the Tigers
The Royals got plenty of guys a chance to get their feet wet in a major-league game on Thursday, but they just didn’t get the series sweep over the division rival Detroit Tigers in the final game of the Royals’ 10-game homestand.
The potential winning run came to the plate with two outs in the ninth inning in the form of Royals single-season home run king Jorge Soler. But Soler struck out swinging and flung his bat in the process as the Royals fell 6-4 to the Tigers in front of an announced 14,736 at Kauffman Stadium on Thursday afternoon.
The loss snapped the Royals’ four-game win streak, which was tied for their longest streak of the season and longest at home this year. They wrapped up their longest homestand of the season having gone 5-5.
The Royals (51-90) led by three early and trailed by three going into the eighth inning after the Tigers (41-97) had gotten to Royals starting pitcher Glenn Sparkman via the long ball.
Sparkman gave up three home runs in the fourth inning, to Brandon Dixon, Dawel Lugo and Jordy Mercer. Sparkman has allowed a home run in four consecutive starts.
“I keep giving up these home runs, and I never really gave my team a chance to stay in the game, so it’s tough” Sparkman said.
An eighth-inning RBI fielder’s choice by Cheslor Cuthbert cut the Royals’ deficit to two. In the ninth, Erick Mejia walked, Whit Merrifield registered his fourth hit of the day and a ground ball by Adalberto Mondesi left runners on the corners as the defense couldn’t turn the double play against Mondesi’s speed.
Mondesi stole second, his 36th steal of the season, to put himself in scoring position with Soler up and two outs.
“We scored three in the second, put together a nice little rally there,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “We’ve talked about the importance of tack-on runs, and we just couldn’t do it. We couldn’t tack on runs until the eighth inning.
“We tacked on one, and I was hoping that one run would be big. It looked like it was starting to loom big in the ninth. Anytime you can get the go-ahead run to the plate in the ninth inning, you take your shot. We just couldn’t get it done.”
Royals outfielder Hunter Dozier had three hits and reached base four times. Merrifield, who entered the day tied for the major-league lead in hits (177), went 4 for 5 with two RBIs and a run scored.
With two more major-league debuts on Thursday, the Royals have now had 13 players play in the big leagues for the first time over the course of this season. The last time the Royals had more than 11 debuts was in 2011, when they had 12.
Mejia and left-handed pitcher Gabe Speier both made their first appearance in the majors on Thursday.
Sparkman (3-11) didn’t last through the first five innings for his third consecutive start. He allowed four runs on seven hits — including those three home runs — in four innings.
He didn’t walk a batter and struck out two in his shortest outing since he started and went just three innings in a loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on July 1.
Sparkman left the game with the Tigers leading 4-3.
Heath Fillmyer, whom the Royals recalled prior to Tuesday’s game, pitched a scoreless inning in relief of Sparkman. Josh Staumont gave up two runs on three hits and a walk as the Tigers expanded their lead to 6-3 in the sixth.
Speier pitched a scoreless seventh inning out of the bullpen in his debut, and Jesse Hahn pitched in a major-league game for the first time since an appearance as a member of the Oakland Athletics in Houston on June 28, 2017.
“I got to embrace it,” said Speier, who has been traded four times during his career in the minors. “It wasn’t too much. But I was definitely nervous. The most nervous I’ve ever been. But I still felt in control.”
Hahn has been rehabbing and working his way back from elbow surgery he underwent last August. Hahn retired the side in order, including a pair of strikeouts in the eighth.
“I wanted to get Fillmyer in the game today. I wanted to get Speier in the game today. Get their feet on the ground,” Yost said. “And I’ve been looking for a spot for Jesse Hahn. A lot of this was more for me, so I could see what we’ve got.”
The Royals begin a six-game road trip on Friday. They’ll start a three-game series against the Miami Marlins. Royals right-hander Jorge Lopez (2-7, 6.61) gets the start opposite of Miami right-hander Pablo Lopez (5-7, 4.89) in the series opener.