DETROIT | Consider this a relapse for the Royals. Temporary, perhaps. But Wednesday’s 4-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers contained a lot of elements that repeatedly torpedoed the Royals for much of the season.
Suspect base-running. Soft defense. And an inability to produce the clutch hit at the critical juncture.
“We kind of let this one slip out of our hands,” designated hitter Mike Jacobs agreed. “We let them back in the game. Just missed opportunities. It stings a little bit.”
It should. Some specifics:
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•The decision to have Yuniesky Betancourt try to score from second base on a two-out single to left ended the chance for a multi-run third inning.
•A double play not turned help Detroit score a run in the fourth inning. Several other misplays extended innings and made starter Lenny DiNardo, a contact pitcher, work harder than necessary.
•Then the killer: The Royals, down by one run, had runners at first and third with no outs in the eighth inning and later second and third with one out — and came away empty.
Manager Trey Hillman defended the decision by third-base coach Dave Owen to send Betancourt — and there were two outs — but he was pointedly critical in assessing the sloppy defense and inefficient situational hitting.
“We didn’t do either one,” Hillman said, “and it cost us. Even if we just do one of the two. Those are plays we’ve got to make. We gave them extra outs. Lenny’s line looks a lot worse than it actually was. He pitched a heck of a ballgame.”
DiNardo, 0-1, gave up four runs and nine hits in 5 1/3 innings in his second start since arriving from Class AAA Omaha.
“I thought I made decent pitches early in the game,” he said. “They were hitting it on the ground, which was part of the game plan. It happened to be right at people. Later, it started finding holes.”
And a possible victory, after building a 3-0 lead, turned into a frustrating loss.
Placido Polanco delivered the game-winning hit with a two-out RBI single against reliever Jamey Wright in Detroit’s two-run sixth inning. That enabled Tigers starter Eddie Bonine to gain a no-decision after allowing three runs and six hits in five innings.
Zach Miner, 7-5, was the winner after delivering a scoreless sixth inning. Bobby Seay, Brandon Lyon and Fernando Rodney protected the one-run lead over the final three innings. Rodney worked a one-two-three ninth for his 33rd save in 34 opportunities.
The Royals, 58-87, lost for just the second time in nine games and missed a chance to clinch a third straight series victory. The rubber game is 12:05 this afternoon Central time.
Detroit scored twice in the fourth and twice in the sixth before frustration peaked for the Royals in the eighth inning after David DeJesus extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a leadoff single against Seay.
Mitch Maier failed to execute a sacrifice bunt but atoned by blooping a single into center that sent DeJesus to third and finished Seay.
In came Lyon to face the Royals’ three-four-five hitters: Billy Butler, Jacobs and Alberto Callaspo. A base-hit here and, with a rested Joakim Soria available, the Royals had a glorious chance to overcome their previous shortcomings.
“First and third with no outs and Billy up,” Jacobs said. “That’s who you want up right there. He grounds out, and it’s second and third.”
Even there, the Royals caught a break when Butler sent a hopper back to the mound. Lyon had a play at second and a potential double play. Instead, he chose the sure out at first as Maier moved into scoring position.
Up came Jacobs.
“I was thinking they might walk me,” he said. “They didn’t, and I felt good up there. I felt comfortable. Really, on 3-2, I just guessed wrong. He was pounding me in with cutters, and on that 3-2 pitch, I sold out for it — and I saw him throw the ball away.”
Jacobs waved weakly at a fastball on the outside edge for a strikeout. Lyon then retired Callaspo on a soft pop to first.