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Junis deals quality start, but Royals fall to Tigers

September 22, 2018

DETROIT -- One of the strong suits that Royals manager Ned Yost has admired about his starting pitchers lately is their ability to grind through starts even without their best stuff.Such was the case Saturday at Comerica Park as Royals right-hander Jakob Junis gave up eight hits and tossed three

DETROIT -- One of the strong suits that Royals manager Ned Yost has admired about his starting pitchers lately is their ability to grind through starts even without their best stuff.
Such was the case Saturday at Comerica Park as Royals right-hander Jakob Junis gave up eight hits and tossed three wild pitches, but still kept the Royals close. Junis gave up just three runs through six innings in the Royals' 5-4 loss to the Tigers.
The Tigers broke a 3-3 tie in the eighth when Michael Mahtook drilled a two-run home run to left on a hanging slider from right-hander Jason Hammel, who lost his team-high 14th game.

"I liked the matchup of [Hammel's] slider for where we were in the order," Yost said. "Plus he was the freshest arm we had, and he hadn't thrown in three days. [Brandon] Maurer was coming off a 35-pitch inning, [Ben] Lively coming off an 18-pitch inning and [Kevin] McCarthy coming off a 16-pitch inning.
"I wouldn't say [Hammel has been hanging his sliders] quite a bit, but he's been hanging it. He'll throw a slider to [James] McCann and he'll miss it by a foot. Then he'll throw one like he did to Mahtook. And they're not missing it."
Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield doubled in Brett Phillips with two outs in the eighth, tying the score at 3. Salvador Perez belted his 27th home run, tying his career high set last season, in the ninth.

"I want to get one more [home run], at least one more," Perez said. "I missed 25 games early, so that's pretty good. I try to get better every season."
Junis delivered his fourth quality start in his last five tries. In fact, two of the runs he allowed were somewhat cheap.
In the first inning, Junis gave up a two-out single to Nicholas Castellanos and an infield single to Victor Martinez, who played the final game of his career. Martinez reached on a slow roller to Merrifield, who couldn't get a handle on the ball to make the play. Niko Goodrum followed with an RBI single.
"First couple of innings, a couple of infield hits cost me a lot of pitches," Junis said. "To get through the sixth inning with the way the game started, that was a good accomplishment."
In the fifth, Detroit's JaCoby Jones singled with one out and moved to second on a walk to Pete Kozma. Junis then threw a sinker that dipped toward the dirt and skipped through the legs of catcher Meibrys Viloria -- it was ruled a wild pitch. Moments later, Junis threw a slider that bounced past Viloria for another wild pitch, scoring Jones.

"The [wild pitch] that scored the run was my fault," Junis said. "We had a mixup on the signs from the previous at-bat and it just slipped my mind [what the new signs were]."
Added Yost, "I thought [Junis] threw the ball really well. We had a couple of opportunities where we couldn't make a play and it cost him. But he kept us in the game and gave us a chance."

The Royals got on the board first when Merrifield led off the game with a triple to right-center. Raul Mondesi drove him in with a sacrifice fly to center.

Alex Gordon drilled his 12th home run of the season into the right-field seats in the fourth, which tied the score at 2. Gordon has a team-high 31 RBIs since Aug. 1.

SOUND SMART
With two more hits, Merrifield took over the American League lead with 183, one ahead of Boston's J.D. Martinez. The last Royal to lead the league in hits was Kevin Seitzer in 1987 -- Seitzer tied Minnesota's Kirby Puckett with 207.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Mondesi continues to make brilliant plays at shortstop and he did so again in the seventh inning. With Castellanos on second base, Ronny Rodriguez chopped a grounder toward left field. Mondesi cut the ball off moving to his right and made an across-the-body-throw that just nipped Rodriguez at first.

HE SAID IT
"He called me on my first day here and told me to come out and give him a hug [tonight]. He taught me so much inside and outside of baseball; how to play and how to take care of your family. I will try to be like him and play until I'm 39." -- Perez, on greeting fellow Venezuelan Victor Martinez as Martinez trotted off the field after his final career at-bat

UP NEXT
Right-hander Brad Keller (8-6, 3.17 ERA) takes the mound for the Royals in the series finale against the Tigers at Comerica Park on Sunday at 12:10 p.m. CT. Left-hander Daniel Norris (0-5, 5.71) will pitch for the Tigers. Keller gave up four runs for the first time since Aug. 7 when he did so over six innings Monday against the Pirates.

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB.