DETROIT | Sunday provided a fitting end to a miserable month as the Royals closed out August with a 4-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
The details included the squandering of another fine effort by Gil Meche, some disappointing bullpen work, limited offensive production and the latest addition to the club’s crowded collection of injuries.
Throw in the opportunity for second-guessing manager Trey Hillman and, yes, it amounted to August in microcosm.
Miguel Cabrera was in the middle of it all, again, as he drove in all four Detroit runs. His two-run homer in the sixth inning against Meche erased a 2-0 deficit. His two-run double in the eighth against Ramon Ramirez broke the tie and closed the scoring.
“He’s got the ability to concentrate and relax at the same time,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland marveled. “That’s a golden gift.”
And a Royal pain.
Cabrera has five homers and 18 RBIs this season in 14 games against the Royals.
At least August is now in the rear-view mirror. The Royals finished the month at 7-20 for their fewest victories in a full month since they went 5-17 in April 2006.
“August,” Hillman acknowledged, “hasn’t been good at all.”
The month ended with Hillman positioning himself for a second-guess by calling on Kip Wells instead of Ramirez to replace Meche to start the eighth inning in a 2-2 game. Ramirez has served all season as one of the bullpen’s primary late-inning options.
“We evaluated it,” Hillman said, “and my evaluation was, from what we’ve seen recently, Kip had been in better control than Ramirez had. Obviously, it didn’t work out that way.”
Wells couldn’t have done much worse. He began the inning by plunking pinch-hitter Brandon Inge before issuing a walk to Curtis Granderson when he missed on four straight fastballs.
Placido Polanco’s bunt resulted in a fielder’s choice when catcher Miguel Olivo threw to shortstop Tony Peña for a force at third. Replays suggested Inge might have beaten the throw.
Peña also dropped the ball, apparently, when he went to pull it out of his glove. Leyland argued sufficiently to get ejected by umpire Kevin Causey. He could have saved his breath.
If it was a break, Wells couldn’t take advantage. He walked Magglio Ordoñez, which loaded the bases and prompted Hillman to summon Ramirez to face Cabrera.
“I just didn’t locate pitches,” Wells said. “In a tie game, you’ve got to come in pumping strikes. I was off and continued to stay off.”
Ramirez worked the count full before Cabrera yanked grounder through the left side for a two-run double. The Tigers had a two-run lead and closed out the victory when Fernando Rodney worked a scoreless ninth for his seventh save.
Gary Glover, 2-3, got the victory by pitching a scoreless eighth in relief of starter Armando Galarraga. Wells, 0-1, was the loser.
“When you give them the chance to get one hit and score multiple runs,” Wells said, “that’s unacceptable.”
The Royals also lost Mike Aviles, their hottest hitter, because of a bruised right index finger in the seventh inning. Aviles was struck on the right hand as he swung at a 3-2 fastball with two outs. “It hurt,” Aviles said, “and it still hurts.”
The good news is X-rays showed no break. He could be available as soon as Tuesday’s series opener against the A’s.
Injuries had forced four Royals to the disabled list in the preceding 10 days. That doesn’t count Mark Grudzielanek, who suffered what now appears to be a season-ending ankle injury on Aug. 1.
All part of a bad month.
The Royals lost for the 12th time in 14 games and fell to 57-79. They have not won a series since taking two of three from the White Sox on Aug. 1-3 at Kauffman Stadium.
Meche got his fourth no-decision in five starts despite limiting the Tigers to two runs and five hits in seven innings. He has allowed two earned runs or less in seven of his last nine starts.
“I didn’t walk anybody,” Meche said. “Against a lineup like that, that’s one of the biggest keys. They just got to us in the eighth again.”
Galarraga also settled for a no-decision but showed why he has emerged this season as the Tigers’ best starter. He allowed two runs and eight hits in seven innings while striking out seven and walking one.
The Royals built a 2-0 lead by scoring single runs in the third and sixth innings. David DeJesus led off the third with a triple and scored on a two-out wild pitch. José Guillen opened the sixth with his club-leading 18th homer.
Detroit got even on Cabrera’s two-run homer with two outs in the sixth. It came on a first-pitch fastball that he powered over the right-field wall.
“When he hit it,” Meche said, “I knew it was gone. A guy that big, when you hear that sound, you pretty much know what the result is.” There was more to come. None of it good.