KANSAS CITY -- One could argue the Royals had the perfect pitcher to capture their first series victory of 2018.Right-hander Jakob Junis continued his dominance of the Tigers this season, throwing seven strong innings, and the Royals beat the Tigers, 4-2, Sunday afternoon to take three out of four in
KANSAS CITY -- One could argue the Royals had the perfect pitcher to capture their first series victory of 2018.
Right-hander Jakob Junis continued his dominance of the Tigers this season, throwing seven strong innings, and the Royals beat the Tigers, 4-2, Sunday afternoon to take three out of four in the series.
Junis gave up eight hits and two runs and matched a career high with eight strikeouts. He beat the Tigers for the third time this season.
"We go in against them with a pretty good game plan every time," Junis said of the Tigers. "We've executed it every time. They didn't have some of their guys that might give us some trouble. But we were attacking. The slider was working, had a lot of strikeouts, strikeouts in big situations."
Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas, who had three RBIs, said the rest of baseball may be just starting to figure out Junis, now 4-2 with a 3.18 ERA.
"Yeah, I think so," Moustakas said. "We get to see him all the time so we know how good his stuff is. We know how good he is when he is on the mound. I kind of like it that way, that people don't know what they're getting from him. He comes in and is just nasty. He gave up a couple of home runs his last outing but comes out today and is not even fazed."
Added second baseman Whit Merrifield, "He's dynamite. I think people are starting to take notice. But it doesn't matter. If he's spotting up, good luck."
Merrifield manufactured a run in the first. He legged out a hustle double after his grounder caromed off third baseman Niko Goodrum, then stole third and scored on shallow fly to left by Moustakas.
Merrifield was at it again in the third. He hit a two-out single, again off Goodrum, then stole second. Merrifield stole third when the Tigers, playing in the shift, didn't defend the bag. Jorge Soler, who had walked, stole second when the Tigers didn't cover second base. Moustakas made the Tigers pay with a two-run double.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
The Tigers had a chance to carve into a 4-1 deficit in the fifth off Junis. With two outs, Leonys Martin skied a fly ball to center that Abraham Almonte lost in the sun for a double. Junis then walked Jose Iglesias on four pitches. After a lengthy battle with Victor Martinez, Junis got the strikeout on a 3-2 slider.
"[Martinez] battled, too," Junis said. "It was a long at-bat. On 3-2, yeah, I was thinking slider. We had thrown some sliders early. Threw in a few fastballs late. He fouled off a slider, I think, and I wasn't going to get beat [without using] my best pitch, so I threw the slider."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Sunday was the Royals' annual "Salute to the Negro Leagues" as the players and coaches wore throwback Kansas City Monarchs uniforms. Negro Leagues Museum president Bob Kendrick also presented the 2017 Monarch Awards for pitcher and player of the year to Danny Duffy and Merrifield.
It also was "Dressed to the Nines" day as fans were encouraged to dress their best.
HE SAID IT
"He gets the ball, throws the next pitch. It's fun to play defense behind him. It gets you more into the game." -- Moustakas on Junis' quick pace to pitching after a 2-hour, 16-minute game, the fastest time for a Royals game this season
After an off-day Monday, the Royals embark on a six-game road trip that begins in Baltimore on Tuesday at 6:05 p.m. CT. Left-hander Duffy (0-4, 5.63 ERA) takes the mound for the Royals. The Orioles will counter with right-hander Dylan Bundy (1-4, 3.76 ERA). Duffy allowed four home runs -- three to Mookie Betts -- in a loss to Boston last Wednesday. Duffy gave up 10 hits and five runs over 6 2/3 innings.
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.