Six in a row. That’s right, suddenly the Royals can’t lose. And this one on Monday night is how the Royals generally scripted things when they put together their club in the offseason.
A strong effort from a starting pitcher, Jeremy Guthrie in this case, some air-tight work from the bullpen and just enough hitting. The result was a 3-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers on a beautiful June night at Kauffman Stadium.
Guthrie surrendered a two-run homer in the third inning to Miguel Cabrera, but the Royals countered with three runs later in the inning — and that was it.
Salvy Perez’s two-run triple was the key answering blow against Tigers starter Doug Fister. And really ... how’s that for underscoring that things are trending upward? A triple by Perez.
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“You know a lot of things have to go right for that to happen,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said laughing.
First, the ball fell just beyond a diving attempt by center fielder Avasail Garcia in the right-center gap.
“As soon as (that happened),” Perez said, “I saw a chance to make it to third base. ... I saw Torii Hunter catch up to the ball, and I said, ‘I’ve got a chance.’”
Those chances multiplied geometrically when Hunter, a nine-time Gold Glove winner, overthrew the first relay man. Two snap throws might have/should have nailed Perez at third base.
Instead Perez was safe — and then scored what proved to be the winning run on Lorenzo Cain’s two-out infield single. Cain beat a (let’s say, unrushed) throw from shortstop Jhonny Peralta.
“Sal did a great job driving in two,” Cain said, “and I just felt like I had to get him in. So I got down the down line as fast as I could, and I was able to get a hit out of it. It was definitely huge.”
That inning started when Alcides Escobar beat out a single to Peralta. In sum: Speed, hustle and some Detroit defensive shortcomings produced three runs — and a victory.
“Athleticism and speed were huge factors,” manager Ned Yost agreed. “We won the game on an infield hit — Lorenzo Cain flying down the line.”
Those three runs were enough only because Guthrie and a relay of Aaron Crow, Tim Collins, Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland nursed the one-run lead through the final six innings against the American League’s best attack.
Holland got the final three outs and his 13th save in 15 chances.
Fister, 5-4, pitched an eight-inning complete game but took a tough-luck loss after yielding just the three runs along with nine hits.
“Everybody knows they’re a real good club,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “Everybody knows that. They had a terrific spring and then they got off to a little slow start.
“It looks like they’re getting into the swing of things now. And it’s a good club. They’ve got some speed, they’ve got some power.”
The key late-inning moment came in the Detroit seventh, which started with left fielder Alex Gordon making a diving catch on Omar Infante’s sinking liner.
Garcia then pulled a 1-2 pitch through the right side for a single before Guthrie hit Andy Dirks with an 0-2 fastball. That put the tying and go-ahead runs on base and prompted a move to the bullpen.
Crow replaced Guthrie and retired Hunter on a fly to right before striking out Cabrera, the reigning MVP and Triple Crown winner.
“I was trying to get ahead (of Cabrera),” Crow said, “but I fell down 2-0. That’s definitely not what you want to do against him.
“I was able to get back in the count with a 2-0 slider, and then he fouled off a pretty good pitch to hit. So I was fortunate, too.”
Crow’s work let Guthrie, 6-3, to finish with a “quality start” at two runs over 61/3 innings. Guthrie allowed six hits and three walks while failing to record a strikeout. A dozen of the outs against him were fly-outs.
“They hit a lot of balls to the warning track,” he said, “so I utilized a lot of distance to get my outs. I didn’t have great stuff out there, but I was able to get them to hit it just short enough that we could make the plays.”