A leadoff double and aggressive baserunning gave the Royals two runs in the top of the fifth inning on Saturday afternoon against the Tigers.
That was all the run support Brady Singer needed.
The Royals right-hander spun seven impressive innings during Kansas City’s 2-1 win at Comerica Park, with three hits, eight strikeouts, no walks and 93 pitches — 65 strikes — needed. The outing was a continuation of what the young starter showed in his previous start, with one key difference.
His offense helped him out.
Singer entered Saturday with a 3.77 ERA on the season and not one run of support in any of his three starts. Saturday looked to be on a similar track as Singer locked into a pitchers’ duel with Tigers starter Matthew Boyd, who had four perfect innings before Jorge Soler’s leadoff double in the fifth. Hanser Alberto poked a single to left field to get Soler to third, and Andrew Benintendi’s fielder’s choice sent Soler home.
Alberto’s aggressive baserunning hurried a high throw to second base and prevented the Tigers from turning a double play, and Benintendi’s baserunning from first to third on Michael A. Taylor’s single caused a wild throw from right fielder Victor Reyes for the Royals’ second run.
“Those are the sorts of things you spend time talking about in Spring Training, but they’re just so valuable when you see it in application,” Kansas City manager Mike Matheny said. “Those sorts of things in games like that are difference makers.”
Singer made sure that was all the Royals needed for their third consecutive victory and second of the four-game series in Detroit. The Tigers’ first hit didn’t come until a leadoff single in the third, and they didn’t have any baserunners past first base except when Willi Castro golfed a well-executed slider into the right-field bleachers for Singer’s only run allowed.
“We were moving quick,” Singer said. “I had some quick innings in there too, and [Boyd] was matching it. It was a really good pitchers’ duel. We were going back and forth, going off each other. Definitely fun.”
After lacking fastball command in his first start of the season against Texas and running into some bad luck in his second, Singer has dominated lately. He’s allowed one run on five hits, with 14 strikeouts in 13 innings across his past two starts. In four starts against Detroit in his young career, Singer has held the Tigers to a .153 batting average while posting a 1.44 ERA.
On Saturday, it was all about Singer’s fastball. Of his 93 pitches, 66 were sinkers and 29 were sliders. Singer didn’t have to throw a changeup because of how well his slider played off the fastball on both sides of the plate, and the Tigers seemed baffled by how much Singer’s fastball moved on them, especially on lefties.
“That was as good as I’ve seen him,” Matheny said. “He’s got unique makeup, but to go with it, he’s got the ability to spot pitches with good movement. And it’s different, it’s late movement. You can see how the hitters react differently.”
With two strikes on lefty leadoff hitter Robbie Grossman in the bottom of the third inning, Singer threw a 93 mph fastball high and tight, and Grossman laid off it. Except the pitch moved all the way to the middle of the zone for a strikeout looking.
Singer did the same thing to Grossman in the bottom of the sixth.
“I think my fastball’s got some good life to it right now,” Singer said. “I didn’t feel like the command was that great in the first two innings. I felt like I gained some more command toward the end of the game. But even when I did miss, I had so much life to it, I felt like it was jumping out of my hand.”
That Singer was able to navigate through the Tigers’ batting order three times on two pitches speaks to the quality of his stuff. Add in the changeup — or not, as the Tigers saw Saturday — and anyone can see why the Royals took Singer in the first round of the 2018 MLB Draft.
And why they see him as a cornerstone of their rotation for years to come.
“His usage is simple, but that doesn’t make his stuff simple,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “I think it’s pretty electric, and the ball’s moving a little bit. It’s 94-95 [mph], he’s got a hard slider, he’s got command, even some of the pitches that he’s just missing. I mean, it was an execution day for him, too. And he’s got plenty of stuff, no matter how many pitches he has, to be successful. And we saw it today.”