DETROIT | Who are these guys?
The Royals administered an 11-1 bludgeoning to Detroit on Tuesday night for their seventh victory in eight games. It’s like early May again when the possibilities seemed endless.
“You’re seeing a team that ain’t going to give up,” said right fielder Willie Bloomquist, who had three of the Royals’ 10 hits. “It’s our obligation to win as many games as we can. That being said, we’re starting to get a few breaks here and there and come out on top.”
No playing out the string here.
Robinson Tejeda, 3-1, delivered another strong audition for regular duty next season in the rotation. He allowed one run and two hits in five innings despite battling a small blister on his middle finger that affected his ability to command his off-speed pitches.
“It happened in my last start,” he said. “And today, in the third inning, I was starting to feel it again. It’s nothing big, but I was losing confidence in my breaking pitch.”
Tejeda had a 4-0 lead before he threw his first pitch when the Royals jumped on an ineffective Jarrod Washburn, 9-0, in the first inning.
An attack that spent much of the season in run-challenged despair cranked out three three-run homers and reached double figures in hits for the ninth time in 10 games.
“Right now,” left fielder David DeJesus said, “we’re just going out there and expecting to win. We’re having fun. We’re getting good pitching, and we’re getting timely hits when we need them. It’s a good combination.”
So good that a club still buried at the bottom of the American League Central Division standings now has four victories in four games over the last eight days against the first-place Tigers.
“Three three-run homers,” manager Trey Hillman noted while cracking a rare smile. “That’s uncharacteristic of us. But we’ll take it.”
That muscle produced the Royals’ biggest winning margin in nearly a year. Their current 7-1 run is their best since winning eight of nine in late April and early May.
So, again, who are these guys?
Alberto Callaspo’s three-run homer capped that four-run first Washburn, who is battling a sore left knee and lasted just one inning.
DeJesus extended his hitting streak to 15 games with a three-run homer in the fourth inning against Casey Fien. Miguel Olivo added a three-run homer in the seventh inning against Jeremy Bonderman.
Olivo’s homer was his club-leading 20th of the season and extended his personal career high. He also had a triple in the fifth inning before scoring on Callaspo’s sacrifice fly. Callaspo’s four RBIs matched a career high.
“Right now,” Olivo said, “I’m just happy that we’re winning games. We’re scoring some runs. That’s what it’s all about right now.”
Tejeda entered the game with a streak of 19 straight scoreless innings, including 11 in two starts since replacing a sore-shouldered Gil Meche in the rotation.
The streak reached 23 2/3 innings — officially 23 innings — before the blister really began biting with two outs in the fifth. Two walks and a Carlos Guillen single snapped the streak and trimmed the Royals’ lead to 8-1.
An error by third baseman Alex Gordon loaded the bases, but Tejeda responded by striking out Miguel Cabrera.
“You just have to locate your pitch on him,” Tejeda said, “although that’s not easy because he has a big hitting zone. When I got that strikeout, I just said, `Thank God.’”
That was it, though. Tejeda threw 25 pitches in the fifth, which boosted his count to 102. Rookie reliever Dusty Hughes replaced him to start the sixth inning.
Tejeda allowed one run and two hits in his five innings while striking out five and walking four. He lowered his ERA to 3.09.
“Robby didn’t command the ball as he had in his last two outings,” Hillman said, “but he still showed us lenty. He still missed some bats, and he’s still hard to square up.”
Hughes worked two scoreless innings before Victor Marte did the same in closing out the victory. The Royals improved to 58-86 and took another step toward avoiding a fifth 100-loss season in eight years.
The updated math: The Royals must go just 5-13 or better in their remaining 18 games to avoid 100 losses. Heck, they can avoid 90 losses by going 15-3 or better.
“From what I understand,” Bloomquist said, “they had a similar September last year. Hopefully, it indicates a bright future in that this is what we’re capable of doing. We’ve just got to do it on a daily basis.
“Not just the first month and the last month. We’ve got to do it for all six months.”