The winning run came courtesy of a gift Tuesday night and so what? The Royals will take it and the 3-2 victory it produced over the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium.
An errant — and ill-conceived — flip by Tigers shortstop Edgar Renteria allowed the winning run to score with two outs in the eighth.
José Guillen started the winning rally with a two-out double against reliever Francisco Cruceta. Esteban German replaced Guillen as a pinch runner before Cruceta walked Billy Butler on four pitches.
Ross Gload replaced Butler as a pinch runner.
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Mark Teahen then rolled a grounder up the middle that Renteria stopped from reaching the outfield. But instead of being content with that, Renteria flipped the ball toward second baseman Placido Polanco in an effort to get Gload on a force.
The flip went awry, and German raced home with the go-ahead run.
From there, the Royals turned to the Captain Zero, closer Joakim Soria, for a one-two-three ninth to stay perfect this season in four games against the Tigers. Soria even turned in a sparkling defensive play in reaching for an underhanded flip from first baseman Ross Gload on Curtis Granderson’s one-out hopper to deep first.
Soria’s save was his ninth in nine opportunities as he extended his 0.00 ERA through 15 1/3 innings over 16 appearances. Leo Nuñez, 3-0, got the victory after bailing out Ramon Ramirez for the final two outs in the eighth inning.
Cruceta, 0-1, was the loser.
Royals starter Zack Greinke battled through six innings without his best stuff but held the Tigers to two runs and nine hits. He settled for a no-decision.
It probably shouldn’t have been this tough.
Detroit lefty Nate Robertson entered the game with a 6.64 ERA and without a quality start in any of his previous seven outings. None of those previous starts, though, came against the Royals’ production-starved attack.
So while Robertson surrendered 10 hits, he allowed just two runs in his seven innings — more than good enough for a quality start.
But no victory. Just a no-decision like Greinke.
This three-game series concludes a 10-game homestand, the Royals’ longest of the season, and marks their look at the Tigers since opening the season with a three-game sweep in Detroit.
The Royals improved to 17-21 and moved 1½ games ahead of last-place Detroit, 16-23, in the American League Central.
The Tigers turned two bloops into a first-inning run.
Polanco sent a soft one-out looper into right for a single and scored when Carlos Guillen followed with late-swing flare that landed just inside the left-field line for an RBI double.
Matt Joyce’s two-out homer in the second inning extended the lead to 2-0. Joyce jumped on a first-pitch fastball for his second homer of the season.
The Royals got even in the third on Guillen’s two-out, two-run double into the left-center gap.
Greinke nursed the tie into the sixth before encountering trouble when Detroit loaded the bases on a walk and two ground-ball singles. Second baseman Mark Grudzielanek saved a run by keeping Edgar Renteria’s single up the middle from reaching the outfield.
Note: Grudzielanek simply ate the ball instead of attempting a no-chance flip. That allowed Greinke to escape a bases-loaded jam by overpowering Pudge Rodriguez with three straight 95-mph fastballs for a strikeout.
That finished Greinke’s night, and his ERA edged up to 1.93 — still No. 2 in the American League behind the phenomenal 0.67 by Cleveland’s Cliff Lee.
Ramirez retired four straight hitters after replacing Greinke to start the seventh before issuing successive one-out walks in the eighth to Miguel Cabrera and Gary Sheffield. Brandon Inge replaced Cabrera as a pinch-runner at second.
Nuñez maintained the tie by inducing an infield fly from Joyce and a fly to right from Renteria.