The Kansas City Royals may have effectively iced their own starting pitcher in the fifth inning Sunday by sending eight batters to the plate, seeing 46 pitches, scoring a pair of runs and forcing the Detroit Tigers to go to their bullpen.
Royals starter Brady Singer had electric stuff early, but he ran into trouble after being off the field long enough to kick back and watch a sitcom.
Singer still matched a season high with nine strikeouts even though he didn’t get through five innings, putting the Royals on the path to a 7-4 win over the Detroit Tigers in front of an announced 21,625 in the rubber match of a three-game series at Comerica Park.
The Royals (29-48) have now won three of their last four games, the lone loss coming when the Tigers hit back-to-back homers to win a walk-off on Saturday night after the Royals led going into the ninth.
“It was a good bounce back win, especially after a tough loss like that,” Royals infielder Nicky Lopez said after he swatted a career-high four hits (4 for 4, RBI). “It seems like we’ve been playing good baseball. We’re trying to put it all together.
“We have a really, really young team. Obviously, everyone knows that. You’re going to have your ups and downs, your bruises. It’s just how you respond, how we can keep getting better and better every day to set us up for success in the future.”
Singer joined Danny Duffy as the only Royals pitchers to strike out nine in fewer than five innings. Duffy did so against the St. Louis Cardinals on June 19, 2011.
“I think that was probably the best stuff I’ve had all year,” Singer said. “Everything was working really well. The sinker was good. The slider was good. And I threw some good changeups in there too. I wish I would’ve gotten deeper in the game. I kind of hit (a wall) that fifth inning there with that long break.
“I really feel like I should’ve gotten deeper in the game. We had a little bit shorter start yesterday, so I was trying to get as deep in the game as I can. I didn’t do that, so that was the frustrating part. Other than that, I thought everything was good.”
Royals designated hitter Edward Olivares smashed his third home run of the season and went 2 for 4 with a walk, 2 RBIs and two runs scored. Third baseman Emmanuel Rivera also went 2 for 4 with a pair of RBIs and two runs scored and crushed his fifth home run of the season.
Royals leadoff hitter Whit Merrifield was on base four times (1 for 2, three walks) and scored twice, while Andrew Benintendi (2 for 5, double, RBI) had two hits and has now reached safely in 45 of his last 50 games.
“I can’t complain about them scoring runs,” Singer said. “I’ve got to be better. That’s nobody’s fault but mine. But they had an incredible day. The offense was great.”
Singer gave two runs on six hits and three walks (two in the fifth inning) in 4 2/3 innings. He gave up a leadoff single then a two-run homer to Spencer Torkelson on a 3-2 fastball located off the plate inside but elevated.
Then after a walk, Singer retired two batters in order to put himself on the cusp of getting out of the inning. Instead he gave up an infield single and another walk. Royals manager Mike Matheny went to the bullpen with Singer having thrown 37 pitches in the inning and 97 in the outing.
“I thought it was some of the best stuff he’s had,” Matheny said of Singer. “I just looked like he was throwing darts from the side. It’s just a shame there with the long inning. We love long innings for our offense to make things happen. A pitching change is normally a sign that something is happening. And it did. We got a couple runs.
“That 30-minute delay of him sitting in here, he’s still trying to figure out what he does and at what point do you need to go do more. He tried a couple things. This is the second time that it’s got him this year.”
Matheny said Singer would likely pick veteran starter Zack Greinke’s brain about how to handle similar situations in the future.
Olivares helped spark early offense
Olivares and Rivera homered in the second inning. Olivares jumped on a 2-1 slider on the inner half of the plate from Tigers starter Tarik Skubal and launched it 399 feet down the left field line. Rivera followed with a two-run blast to left-center three batters later.
Olivares’ homer was his third in seven games since coming off of the injured list on June 24. A right quad strain forced him to miss 43 games.
“The report said look for pitches inside, so I was looking for one inside and it happened,” Olivares said with assistant strength and conditioning coach/Latin American coordinator Luis Perez interpreting.
After the three-run second inning, the Royals tacked on two more in the fifth. Both runs came with two outs. The first came courtesy of a Benintendi RBI double. The second on a bases-loaded walk by Olivares that made it a 5-0 lead.
The Royals drew eight walks in the game.
“That was part of the report. You wait for those and everybody was patient today,” Olivares said.
In the seventh inning with the Tigers having pulled within three runs, Michael A. Taylor’s bases-loaded walk gave the Royals a 6-2 edge. The Tigers scored two in the bottom half of the inning against reliever Dylan Coleman, but the Royals tacked on an insurance run in the ninth on Lopez’s RBI single.
Lopez gets swing synced up
That RBI single in the ninth marked Lopez’s fourth hit of the game. He also successfully laid down a sacrifice bunt in the fifth inning.
Lopez started at second base and shifted to third base in the ninth inning when Kyle Isbel went to right field and Merrifield moved to second base.
“We worked on a couple things in cages the past couple days with (John Mabry) and (Alec Zumwalt), just set-up and direction to the ball,” Lopez said. “I’m kind of just trying to, when I see my name in the lineup, play winning baseball and try to produce as much as I can. Whether it’s at third, whether it’s at second, wherever it is on the diamond, just contribute and try to win a ballgame.”
He continued his recent run of hot hitting against the Tigers. Lopez entered the day batting .328 against the Tigers since the start of 2021.
Lopez, who bats left-handed but throws right-handed, said his focus in the cage of late has been making sure he gets his left hand more involved so his right hand doesn’t take over his swing.