Royals

After two-run ninth-inning rally, Royals fall to Tigers 5-4 in 12th

The Tigers' Miguel Cabrera was tagged out by Royals catcher Salvador Perez (13) while trying to score on a hit by Victor Martinez during the first inning of Friday’s baseball game in Detroit.
The Tigers' Miguel Cabrera was tagged out by Royals catcher Salvador Perez (13) while trying to score on a hit by Victor Martinez during the first inning of Friday’s baseball game in Detroit. AP

Scarcely 10 minutes had passed since the walkoff hit that sunk the Royals — perhaps ending Greg Holland’s tenure as the team’s closer — fell into left field at Comerica Park. Manager Ned Yost understood the implications of Holland’s latest stumble, which cost the club a 5-4 defeat in 12 innings to Detroit and slimmed the Royals’ lead over Toronto for home-field advantage to just one game.

But Yost did not intend to discuss the fallout of Holland’s fifth blown save of the season. After he insisted he felt confident Holland would escape the 12th inning jam, he cut off any further questions about him.

“I’m done talking about Greg right now,” Yost said. “I’m done talking about Greg tonight.”

When the Royals regroup on Saturday afternoon, the pecking order inside their bullpen could be rearranged. Until then, the group must absorb the frustration of Friday’s defeat. On a night featuring an electrical delay, some laissez-faire managing by Yost, a sensational swing by Salvador Perez and a light rain across extra innings, the Royals continued their September swoon.

The final blow soared off the bat off rookie Dixon Machado and eluded the glove of left fielder Alex Gordon by inches. Holland had just coughed up the lead when he walked outfielder Tyler Collins with two outs and the bases loaded. The Tigers had opened the inning with a single by Anthony Gose and another by Miguel Cabrera. At that point, Yost elected to walk J.D. Martinez to load the bases.

Holland managed to strike out Victor Martinez to pick up the second out. With his fastball stuck in the low 90s, he relied on his slider. Holland threw two for balls to Collins. A third fastball also missed. At last, at 3-1, he sprayed a fastball inside for the walk. The game ended six pitches later on a hanging slider.

“It was one of those nights where I felt good coming in,” Holland said. “But my command, as the inning went on, just got worse. And I made some mistakes.”

Yost does not need to search far for an alternative. Despite allowing a run on Friday, Wade Davis still looms as the viable choice for the role. The bullpen has been fortified by excellent seasons from Kelvin Herrera and Ryan Madson. Among that group, Holland’s 3.83 ERA resembles a sore thumb.

With Minnesota’s game postponed on Friday, the magic number for Kansas City, 86-61, to clinch the American League Central title stayed at six. The Royals wasted an opportunity to inch closer toward their crown, maintain the lead on the Blue Jays and capitalize on Johnny Cueto’s best start in a month.

Cueto strung together seven innings of two-run baseball. The second run occurred in the eighth, when Yost elected to let Cueto face the top of the Tigers order for the fourth time. Cueto yielded a leadoff double to Gose, who eventually scored when Davis allowed a sacrifice fly to Cabrera. Davis gave up another run soon after.

Cueto entered the eighth with his pitch count at 98. Yost trusted him for the inning, despite his recent struggles.

“That’s what good starters do,” Yost said. “They get you into the eighth inning. If they’re under 100 pitches, they go out and try and get you through the eighth inning.”

The Royals would tie the game in the top of the ninth. A two-out single by Eric Hosmer chased Justin Verlander. The Comerica Park crowd booed Tigers manager Brad Ausmus for the decision. The jeers only intensified when Perez took reliever Alex Wilson deep.

Three innings after Perez delivered his 20th homer of the season, Paulo Orlando chopped an RBI groundout to plate rookie outfielder Terrance Gore for the go-ahead run. Gore had stolen second and taken third on a bunt. He entered the game as a pinch runner after Perez singled.

In addition to his offensive outburst, Perez also established a connection with Cueto that had been missing in recent starts. Cueto asked Perez to adjust his positioning behind the plate, lowering his glove to help Cueto find his target. The results were solid compared to Cueto’s recent string of failures.

Across those previous five outings, Cueto posted a 9.57 ERA. He served up eight home runs. He allowed opposing hitters to post a 1.086 on-base plus slugging percentage. For a month, in essence, Cueto transformed each opponent into Nationals phenom Bryce Harper.

The Royals hoped for better on Friday. Yost and pitching coach Dave Eiland met with Cueto earlier this week in Cleveland with the hopes of establishing a better plan moving forward. That was when Cueto raised the issue of Perez’s positioning.

“All the communication that they had between the start came to fruition (Friday),” said catching coach Pedro Grifol, who translated for Cueto. “He felt really comfortable.”

A technical problem delayed Cueto’s chance at redemption by 23 minutes. As Verlander prepared to throw the game’s first pitch, the umpires noticed an extinguished bank of lights high above the right-field pole. Despite protests from Verlander and Ausmus, the game would not begin until the lights flickered on.

At the start, Verlander kept the Royals from generating any electricity of their own. He gave up a two-out, opposite-field, slow-roller single to designated hitter Kendrys Morales in the first inning. Otherwise he retired 12 of the first 13 men he faced.

Detroit tagged Cueto for a run in the first. Second baseman Ian Kinsler smacked a single out of the reach of shortstop Alcides Escobar. Up came Cabrera, a fearsome hitter stuck in a frightful slump. Cabrera stepped to the plate with zero hits in his previous 20 at-bats.

Cabrera snapped that streak when he attacked a cutter that broke outside of the strike zone. Cabrera dumped it into right field, anyway, for an RBI double.

Cueto struck out J.D. Martinez, but when Victor Martinez singled into center field, the Royals looked on the verge of a two-run deficit. Orlando saved them a run with his arm. With Cabrera lumbering toward home, Orlando one-hopped a throw to Perez. Cabrera trotted into the tag.

In his second at-bat, Orlando cracked Verlander’s veneer. Perez opened the inning with a single. A groundball out by Alex Rios erased Perez, but the inning stayed alive, and Rios eventually stole second base. He tied the game when Orlando yanked a curveball down the third-base line for an RBI double.

Cueto established a rhythm after a 24-pitch first inning. He trusted his fastball, which Yost asked him to do after his last outing, an eight-run disaster against Baltimore. On that night, Yost felt Cueto relied too heavily on his off-speed pitches. The Royals wanted Cueto to hound hitters, rather than try to slip change-ups and cutters by them.

So Cueto stranded a pair in the third inning. He jammed J.D. Martinez with a 94-mph fastball for a flyout. Victor Martinez did the same to end the frame. From there, Cueto did not allow a runner to pass first base until the eighth inning.

“He was in rhythm,” Grifol said. “He felt really good. That’s how he supposed to feel.”

The drama heightened as the game continued. Davis gave up two runs. Perez tied the game, then provided the base runner who scored the go-ahead run. Then, in the 12th, Holland could not hold the lead.

Inside his office, with the wounds still fresh, Yost saw no reason to pick at the issue.

“I’m done,” Yost said. “I’ve already said what I needed to say about Greg.”

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @McCulloughStar

Tigers 5, Royals 4, 12 inn.

Royals

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Gordon lf

4

0

0

0

1

1

.282

Moustakas 3b

5

0

0

0

0

1

.278

Morales dh

5

0

1

0

0

1

.289

Hosmer 1b

5

1

2

0

0

0

.300

Perez c

5

1

3

2

0

0

.258

2-Gore pr

0

1

0

0

0

0

.000

Butera c

0

0

0

0

0

0

.211

Rios rf

4

1

1

0

0

1

.265

1-Dyson pr-cf

0

0

0

0

0

0

.253

Infante 2b

2

0

0

0

0

1

.220

Zobrist 2b

2

0

0

0

1

0

.283

Orlando cf-rf

5

0

1

2

0

2

.249

Escobar ss

3

0

0

0

0

1

.252

Colon ss

1

0

0

0

0

0

.253

Totals

41

4

8

4

2

8

 

Tigers

AB

R

H

BI

W

K

Avg.

Gose cf

5

2

2

0

1

2

.262

Kinsler 2b

6

2

4

0

0

0

.303

Cabrera 1b

4

0

2

2

1

0

.337

3-Davis pr

0

1

0

0

0

0

.248

J.Martinez rf

4

0

1

0

2

1

.287

V.Martinez dh

5

0

1

1

0

1

.238

Collins lf

4

0

0

1

2

0

.266

Marte 3b

4

0

0

0

0

0

.234

Wilson 3b

0

0

0

0

0

0

.320

a-Castellanos ph

1

0

0

0

0

1

.249

Machado ss

1

0

1

1

0

0

.267

McCann c

5

0

1

0

0

2

.271

Romine ss-3b

5

0

1

0

0

2

.258

Totals

44

5

13

5

6

9

 

KC

000

010

002

001

4

8

1

Det.

100

000

020

002

5

13

0

Two outs when winning run scored.

a-struck out for Jo.Wilson in the 11th. 1-ran for Rios in the 9th. 2-ran for S.Perez in the 12th. 3-ran for Mi.Cabrera in the 12th.

E: W.Davis (1). LOB: Kansas City 5, Detroit 12. 2B: Orlando (13), Gose (22), Mi.Cabrera (28). HR: S.Perez (20), off A.Wilson. RBIs: S.Perez 2 (66), Orlando 2 (25), Mi.Cabrera 2 (70), V.Martinez (56), Ty.Collins (17), D.Machado (3). SB: Gore (3), Rios (9). CS: A.Gordon (5), J.Dyson (3), J.Martinez (2). S: J.Dyson. SF: Mi.Cabrera, V.Martinez.

Runners left in scoring position: Kansas City 3 (A.Escobar, Zobrist, C.Colon); Detroit 3 (V.Martinez, J.Marte, Mi.Cabrera). RISP: Kansas City 1 for 6; Detroit 3 for 9. Runners moved up: S.Perez, Orlando.

Royals

I

H

R

ER

W

K

P

ERA

Cueto

7

8

2

2

1

4

105

5.12

Davis

1

1

1

0

2

0

30

0.88

Herrera

1

1

0

0

1

2

26

2.78

Madson

1

0

0

0

0

0

8

2.35

Hochevar

1

0

0

0

0

2

9

3.74

Holland L, 3-2

0.2

3

2

2

2

1

23

3.83

Tigers

I

H

R

ER

W

K

P

ERA

Verlander

8.2

5

2

2

1

7

114

3.46

Wilson

0.1

2

1

1

0

0

16

2.25

Feliz

2

0

0

0

0

1

18

6.54

VerHagen W, 2-0

1

1

1

1

1

0

11

2.66

Cueto pitched to 1 batter in the 8th.

Blown saves: Holland (5); Wilson (2). Inherited runners-scored: W.Davis 1-1, A.Wilson 1-1. IBB: off G.Holland (J.Martinez), off VerHagen (Zobrist). HBP: by N.Feliz (A.Escobar).

Umpires: Home, Ryan Blakney; First, Gary Cederstrom; Second, Quinn Wolcott; Third, Lance Barksdale. Time: 4:09. Att: 32,926.

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