Junis battles through tough-luck outing

DETROIT — Long before the Royals’ bullpen struggled in a 5-4 loss to the Tigers on Thursday, Kansas City starter Jakob Junis turned in a rather gutsy effort after a rough start.

Junis gave up two runs in the first inning after he struggled with command, walking the first two hitters of the game. One scored on a long RBI single by Miguel Cabrera on a ball that eluded right fielder Jorge Soler.

But after the first inning, Junis retired 10 of the next 11 hitters before Detroit struck again in the fifth, benefiting from some soft contact. First, Josh Harrison blooped a single between shortstop Adalberto Mondesi and left fielder Alex Gordon. After a stolen base and a walk, Niko Goodrum blooped a double down the right-field line, scoring Harrison.

But Junis still gave the Royals a quality start — six innings, six hits, three earned runs, three walks, eight strikeouts.

“It was a dogfight from the first inning for him to find his command,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. “My whole thinking was, ‘Jake, just limit the damage and get settled in.’ That’s exactly what happened.”

Junis wasn’t missing by much in that opening frame.

“We got into a pretty good rhythm after that first inning,” Junis said. “There was a couple of close ones that didn’t go our way in the first, especially the first two batters. But that happens.”

Yost thought Junis made some of his best pitches in the fifth, especially on the double by Goodrum.

“It was a great pitch,” Yost said. “He just muscled it over the first baseman’s head.”

Added Junis, “Just one of those days. I thought we made pretty good pitches all day long. [Bad luck] happens.”

On the offensive side, second baseman Whit Merrifield singled and tripled to extend his hitting streak to 26 games, the longest active streak in MLB, and Gordon homered for a second straight game.