DETROIT — Here’s three takeaways from the Royals’ 5-2 loss in 10 innings to the Tigers on Sunday in the rubber game at Comerica Park.
Tough-luck loss for Kennedy
Royals reliever Ian Kennedy was tagged with the loss after allowing a three-run home run to Brandon Dixon with two out in the 10th on a 1-2 curveball.
But Kennedy certainly deserved a better fate. He gave up an infield single to Nicholas Castellanos, on a ball with an exit velocity of 52 mph, when third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez could not get the ball out of his glove to make a throw.
With one out, Niko Goodrum hit another grounder, even more softly, this one with a 41-mph exit velocity, that Gutierrez tried to barehand. But he bobbled it and Goodrum had an infield single.
“Those are plays, they could be made,” Royals manager Ned Yost said, “but they would be great plays. The first one, he couldn’t get it out of his glove.”
Kennedy was visibly down after the game.
“A guy hit it off the end of the bat, Castellanos,” Kennedy said. “I got through the heart of the lineup. Yeah, it’s a tough one. They were hitting it just soft enough or just on the line enough to get base hits.”
Kennedy said the curveball that was hit for a homer was supposed to be down in the zone.
“I felt good with everything — fastball, cutter, curveball,” Kennedy said. “I threw that last curveball really just to get him off the fastball. He’d fouled a couple fastballs off. I meant to bounce it, but I didn’t think it was going to be a homer.”
Royals starter Brad Keller got in deep trouble in the third inning as the Tigers threatened to put together a big frame. JaCoby Jones hit a leadoff double, Jeimer Candelario walked and Castellanos hit a 97-mph one-hopper that skipped past Gutierrez for an RBI single.
But Keller came back to strike out Miguel Cabrera and Goodrum, each on high four-seam fastballs. Keller then got Ronny Rodriguez to ground into a fielder’s choice, holding the Tigers to just one run.
Keller got in similar trouble in the fifth when he walked Jones and Candelario leading off the inning. After a flyout, Cabrera knocked a go-ahead RBI single up the middle.
But then Goodrum hit a soft floater to second baseman Whit Merrifield, who purposely dropped the ball to set up a double play. The infield fly rule was called, though, and then Candelario was tagged out trying to advance to third for a double play anyway.
Keller, though, continued to struggle with command and gave up a double and two walks in the sixth, loading the bases. Yost turned to reliever Scott Barlow, who was superb striking out Jones and Candelario to keep the score at 2-1.
“You talk about the circle of trust, if there’s any such thing, he’s in it,” Yost said of Barlow.
Actually, most of the bullpen has been good lately. Brad Boxberger pitched a scoreless inning and now has retired 15 straight hitters over his last four outings.
“The ‘pen is really settling in nicely,” Yost said.
Keller went 5 1/3 innings, gave up six hits, five walks and two runs while striking out six. He threw 101 pitches, 59 for strikes.
“I felt a little bit more in control early on,” Keller said, “and I just got out of whack in the sixth inning. Got behind some guys and walked them. Better command early on, I just gotta finish stronger.”
The Royals had a great opportunity against Tigers starter Spencer Turnbull in the second inning.
Jorge Soler led off with a double to left-center and went to third on Ryan O’Hearn’s single. Gutierrez followed with an RBI single to left, giving the Royals a 1-0 lead.
Cam Gallagher then sacrificed the runners into scoring position. But Billy Hamilton, in a 2-for-21 skid at the time, hit a soft liner to left that was caught. And Turnbull then struck out Merrifield.
“We certainly had some chances,” Yost said, “but we just couldn’t get it done.”