Santana, Royals break off win against Tigers
Right-hander goes 7 1/3 scoreless; KC now 4-2 in season series
KANSAS CITY -- Maybe you heard about the city of Detroit going bankrupt. Who figured their mighty Tigers would be looking at a bunch of zeros as well?
Yet that was the bottom line as Kansas City right-hander Ervin Santana, with able relief help, held the first-place Tigers to two hits in a 1-0 victory on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium. For the Royals, who slogged into the All-Star break with five straight losses, the win was a great tonic as 35,000 fans welcomed them home.
Billy Butler, who drove in the game's only run, summed up the game succinctly: "Pitchers' duel -- old-fashioned."
Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez was touched only in the first inning. Alex Gordon got a single on a hot shot through second baseman Ramon Santiago, stole second base and scored on Butler's ground single into left field.
"With Anibal it's good to get a run off him right away," Gordon said. "He's a great pitcher and he mixes it up a lot, and we hit the ball well against him. Even though we only scored one run, we left a lot of guys on and had some good at-bats against him."
Sanchez, in splitting decisions in two starts against KC last year, gave up just one run in 16 innings. So he's a tough customer. But Santana was tougher.
"You can't say enough good things -- to hold a team like that down to no runs, you don't come into a game like that expecting to shut those guys out," Butler said. "It's not usually going to happen."
Santana retired the first 10 Tigers he faced before Torii Hunter lined a single into right field in the fourth inning.
"I watched the first three innings on TV and I really thought he had a shot at throwing a no-hitter the way he was throwing the ball," said closer Greg Holland. "I didn't want to mention it to anybody."
The Tigers' only other hit was Andy Dirks' single up the middle with two outs in the fifth. He tried to steal second and was thrown out by catcher Salvador Perez's perfect peg to shortstop Alcides Escobar.
Santana was lifted after a one-out walk and 106 pitches in the eighth. He left the mound to a standing ovation and waved his cap to the fans.
"That was a very good moment," Santana said.
Manager Ned Yost was quick to move after his starter issued his only walk.
"I'm not letting him lose," Yost said. "I mean, we're in the eighth inning, I've got a bullpen that's had four days' rest and I'm going to the bullpen."
Kelvin Herrera, recalled from the Minors on Friday, took over and got the last two outs, throwing 100 mph fastballs in the process. Holland, fresh from the All-Star Game, pitched a perfect ninth to record his 23rd save.
Santana was the beneficiary of superlative catches by center fielder Lorenzo Cain. He leaped backward into the wall for Hunter's smash in the first inning. He raced through the warning track to catch Victor Martinez's drive and smacked into the wall in the fifth. Cain also went to the wall for Miguel Cabrera's home-run bid in the seventh.
"He played some good defense. That saved them three doubles," Hunter said.
"Oh, man, he was working today," Santana said. "He made great catches."
Cain's legs were poetry in motion as those deep drives took off.
"I got great jumps on them, read them great off the bat and was able to make some plays," Cain said. "Ervin did an outstanding job today, so for me to go make some plays for him was great."
This was the 56th 1-0 victory in Royals history and their second this year. It was also the fourth one-run game they've played against the Tigers this season and they've won three of them.
"This could've easily been a 4-0 game," Yost said. "Gordy smoked a ball right at Prince Fielder with runners at second and third. And David Lough smoked a ball right at the second baseman with a runner on third."
Also, the Royals loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth, but couldn't take advantage of a big break. Butler's single and Mike Moustakas' walk and two outs preceded Sanchez's wild pitch that put both runners in scoring position. Lough walked to load the bases.
Escobar fouled off a 2-0 pitch, but catcher Alex Avila dropped the popup as he approached the Royals' dugout for an error. The count went full on Escobar before Sanchez struck him out to squelch the threat.
Sanchez, in six innings, gave up four hits but walked five to give the Royals extra opportunities.
"I feel good because I kept the score right there," he said. "We have to give credit to Santana. He threw a good ballgame, there's no question about it."
Unquestionably, this was a game the Royals needed.
"[The Tigers are] arguably the class of our [American League Central] division. They went to the World Series last year," Yost said. "I think that last year, we were probably five or six steps behind them and I think we're a step behind them or right with them this year. The problem is that at times we can be a bit inconsistent. [Ten] days ago we were one game under .500, looking to get on a run, and ended up losing five in a row. But going into the break, these kids knew they've still got their best baseball to play ahead of them and we started out the second half real nice."
The Royals are now seven games behind Detroit and have beaten the Tigers in four of their six meetings so far.
"If you want to get into the playoffs, you have to beat the Tigers and I think everyone knows that," Holland said.
Their city may be broke, but the Tigers are rich in talent. Everyone knows that, too.