The unbeaten run figured to end at some point this week. The Royals seemed unlikely to produce a third straight three-game sweep against the Detroit Tigers.
But this? Wow. Monday’s 19-4 bludgeoning at Kauffman Stadium was payback by the Tigers on an excruciating scale.
The game ended with shortstop Tony Peña pitching the ninth inning — and he was the Royals’ most effective pitcher of the game. Really. Three up and three down.
So, yes, this was a fiasco, but a humorous one.
Detroit broke open a scoreless game with a five-run third inning that ignited when third baseman Alex Gordon failed to make a clean pickup on a sharp grounder and mushroomed on Luke Hochevar’s inability to control damage with two outs.
All five runs scored when the Tigers bunched three straight two-out hits. Matt Joyce capped the burst with a three-run homer that left Hochevar pounding his glove in frustration.
Things only got worse.
A lot worse.
The Tigers stretched their lead to 7-0 in the fifth and 9-0 in the seven before pummeling Jimmy Gobble in a 10-run eighth inning that extended the lead to 19-0. All 10 runs were charged to Gobble, whose ERA spiked to 11.31.
That early five-spot smoothed the way for Tigers right-hander Zach Miner, who made his first start of the season after 32 relief appearances. Miner rejoined the club earlier in the day after spending the last few weeks at Class AAA Toledo.
Miner, 4-3, allowed just three hits, all singles, in pitching six shutout innings before departing after a season-high 88 pitches.
The Royals avoided a shutout — and their worst loss in history — by scoring four times in the eighth against relievers Freddy Dorsi and Aquilino Lopez. Billy Butler capped a run a five straight hits with a two-run single.
Peña’s work in the ninth included a strikeout of Ivan Rodriguez. Peña is the first position player to pitch for the Royals since infielder Shane Halter on July 17, 1998 at Seattle.
Halter pitched a scoreless inning that night. Maybe the Royals need to use infielders as pitchers more often.
The Tigers finished with 18 hits. Miguel Cabrera matched career highs with five hits and six RBIs. Joyce finished with four hits and five RBIs. Carlos Guillen had three hits and scored five runs. Curtis Granderson had three hits and scored four runs.
The Royals had won all six games between the two teams before Monday. They opened the season with a three-game sweep in Detroit, and produced another sweep when the teams met in mid-May at Kauffman Stadium.
The victory enabled the Tigers to crawl over .500 at 50-49. The Royals reached 100-game mark at 45-55, which puts them two victories ahead of last year’s pace.
Hochevar, 6-8, exited after the fifth with a line that showed seven runs and eight hits. His ERA jumped to 5.47. The Tigers extended their lead to 9-0 in the seventh against Robinson Tejeda and Gobble.
Tejeda and Gobble combined to throw 12 straight balls at one point with two outs. The result was three straight walks, which forced in a run. The crowd of 14,137 erupted in cheers when Gobble broke the string with a called strike to Edgar Renteria.
Gobble’s season-long problems hit an appalling new low in 10-run eighth. The Tigers began the inning with six straight hits, capped by Gary Sheffield’s three-run homer.
Gobble forced in another run by sandwiching a single around three more walks before manager Trey Hillman finally called on Leo Nuñez, activated earlier in the day from the disabled list.
That didn’t help.
Nuñez surrendered a two-run double and an RBI single to Joyce before ending the inning.