What’s it tell you when Monday’s game wasn’t yet through the third inning and, already, the Royals were more or less reduced to hoping that storm cell lingering over the Ozarks would get a move on.
The rain held off until the eighth inning. Even then, it was just a few drops. So the Royals simply took their lumps in a 13-1 loss to Detroit that reduced a crowd of 34,524 to a Memorial Day solemnity more typically found in Arlington.
“Their guy threw the ball well,” DH Mike Jacobs said, “and they swung the bats well. There is nothing much else to say about it except that we didn’t do either one of those very well.”
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The Royals showed scant fire until manager Trey Hillman barked at plate umpire Paul Emmel after a called strikeout on Willie Bloomquist in the eighth inning. That led to Hillman’s first ejection of the season and, say this, he got his money’s worth.
“I was simply trying to divert attention from Willie,” Hillman said. “I’d already subbed my last infielder. It’s been a bad day at work, so I’m not going to take a chance of having to put a catcher out there at an infield position. That would add a lot of insult to injury.”
Perhaps it was only a coincidence when the Royals followed Hillman’s animated tirade by scoring their only run of the game: Mitch Maier tripled to right before David DeJesus delivered an RBI single.
Like the rain, it was negligible and far too late to matter — even before Detroit answered with four more runs in the ninth.
All that did matter, really, is the marquee pitching matchup between Gil Meche and Tigers ace Justin Verlander never materialized.
Verlander was in top form.
Meche wasn’t — and his problems had nothing to do with a cranky lower back that has bothered him this season on previous occasions.
“I’m just making pitching way too difficult,” he said. “I feel like I’m pressing. My back feels fine. No excuses. It’s just a matter of pitching, and that’s something I’m not doing right now.”
Detroit scored two runs in the first inning by capitalizing on a costly error, albeit on a tough play, by third baseman Mark Teahen. That’s not to suggest Meche was unlucky before he getting a quick hook in Detroit’s two-run third inning.
“Obviously, he didn’t have command in the first inning,” Hillman said. “And if we’re going to have a chance at all, I felt we had to try to do something sooner than later.”
Just to be sure, the Tigers added three runs in the fifth against Sidney Ponson and two in the seventh against Ron Mahay before battering Jamey Wright in the ninth.
Verlander, 5-2, allowed just five hits, all singles, in seven shutout innings. He struck out eight, which extended his league-leading total to 85. Royals pitcher Zack Greinke, who starts Tuesday night, ranks second with 73.
“He had his stuff dialed up pretty good today,” Bloomquist said. “When he’s got it going, he’s tough. It’s not just us. You look at his numbers and what he’s been able to do so far this year, he’s been pretty tough on everybody.”
Verlander is 5-0 in his last six starts while allowing four earned runs in 42 1/3 innings.
“After last year, not having my stuff,” he said, “I was able to pitch a little better and get outs without my best stuff. After this spring, working hard and getting my stuff back, putting those two things together made me a better pitcher.”
Zach Miner yielded the Royals’ only run.
Detroit’s balanced attack accumulated 19 hits, including at least one from 10 different players. Eight players scored runs, and eight drove in runs. Miguel Cabrera led the way with four hits and three RBIs. Curtis Granderson and Brandon Inge each had three hits. Gerald Laird contributed a two-run homer.
It was, in short, not much of a showdown between the top two teams in the American League Central Division. First-place Detroit, 25-18, extended its lead to four games by winning for the eighth time in 10 games.
The Royals fell to 22-23 and are 4-12 since building a three-game lead atop the division 18 days ago.
Meche, 2-5, suffered his fifth loss in six decisions. He threw 73 pitches in just 2 1/3 innings while giving up four runs and six hits.
It could have been worse, too. The Tigers had the bases loaded with one out when Meche departed, but Ponson got Ramon Santiago to hit into a double play.
“I’ve got to get back to the basics of throwing strike one,” Meche said. “It seems when you do that, good things happen.”
Otherwise, you need rain. Lots of it. Early.