DETROIT -- The Tigers spent Thursday afternoon crushing tape-measure home runs in batting practice at Comerica Park, then took their big swings into an 11-8 win in the series opener against the Royals. Christin Stewart hit his first two Major League home runs in the first two innings, the first
DETROIT -- The Tigers spent Thursday afternoon crushing tape-measure home runs in batting practice at Comerica Park, then took their big swings into an 11-8 win in the series opener against the Royals. Christin Stewart hit his first two Major League home runs in the first two innings, the first as part of back-to-back homers with Nicholas Castellanos, erasing two early deficits on a night when fly balls were carrying despite the flags blowing in.
Stewart, the Tigers' No. 6 prospect per MLB Pipeline, was among the big swingers in batting practice, hitting one ball into the shrubs beyond center field, and another onto the party deck in right. When Royals starter Jorge Lopez hung a 1-1 changeup in the first, Stewart pounced, sending a fly ball just over the right-field fence for his first Major League home run after hitting 93 homers over four seasons in the Minors.
"I felt good in BP, but you never know," Stewart said. "I had a good feeling something good was going to happen today."
The Royals surged ahead in the second, chasing starter Matthew Boyd, but back-to-back hits leading off the bottom half brought up Stewart again. This time, he teed off on a hanging slider, belting it about a dozen rows deep into the right-field seats beside the tunnel for a three-run homer and a 7-5 lead.
"You saw tonight that he can get the bat to the ball," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He'll catch up to it and keep going. He's going to be fun to watch."
Stewart recorded his sixth RBI with a bases-loaded walk in the seventh. He is the first Tigers player since 1908 to post a six-RBI game within his first 11 Major League contests. The last Detroit rookie with a six-RBI game was Ryan Raburn, who drove in seven on July 25, 2007.
Stewart's six RBIs marked his most in a game since collecting five on Aug. 13, 2015, for Class A West Michigan, his first summer as a pro after the Tigers selected him in the compensation round of that year's Draft. He became the first Detroit player to hit his first two career home runs in the same game since Brent Clevlen on Aug. 1, 2006.
A beneficiary of the expanded rosters in September, Stewart has become the starting left fielder as the Tigers try to get him as much playing time at the Major League level as possible before the season ends. His demeanor has remained calm and consistent as he auditions for a roster spot for 2019.
"After the first couple games, the nerves kind of died away and I just started to play baseball," Stewart said. "Honestly, after the first hit, you get that out of the way, everything just calms down a little bit. You just start playing baseball and having fun and playing loose."
The Tigers' bullpen tamed the Royals with 7 2/3 innings of three-run ball. Zac Reininger, who tossed 2 1/3 innings after Boyd's exit, gave up a two-out, two-run home run to Hunter Dozier in the fourth. Five other relievers combined to allow one run over 5 1/3 innings.
In addition to his homer, Castellanos also tripled. Ronny Rodriguez collected three hits and Grayson Greiner went 1-for-1 with two RBIs and two walks.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Tigers escape jam: After Boyd faced five batters in the second and recorded only one out, Gardenhire brought in Reininger with runners on first and second. He used four pitches to get both Dozier and Salvador Perez to fly out to Stewart in left field, keeping the Tigers' deficit at 5-4.
Castellanos recorded his 53rd multi-hit game of the season, tying him for fourth most in the Majors with the Rockies' Nolan Arenado.
HE SAID IT
"There's a reason why everybody calls him one of these top prospects and part of our big future, and he showed you a little bit tonight." -- Gardenhire, on Stewart's big night
The Tigers continue the series against the Royals at Comerica Park on Friday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Detroit will have Francisco Liriano (5-10, 4.54 ERA) starting. The veteran left-hander is 1-0 with a 2.28 ERA in four starts against Kansas City this season. The Royals will start Ian Kennedy (2-8, 4.73), who allowed two runs over six innings in his last start against the Twins.
Tyler Fenwick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit.