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Orlando's first homer of '17 lifts KC over Tigers

MLB.com

KANSAS CITY -- Paulo Orlando drilled a two-run homer off Tigers reliever Drew VerHagen and the Royals rallied for a 7-4 victory at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday night.

Shortstop Alcides Escobar had tripled with one out in the seventh, and with two outs, Orlando blasted a shot that nearly hit the Royals Hall of Fame building in left, traveling a Statcast-projected 412 feet. Escobar also had a two-run double in the eighth.

Full Game Coverage

KANSAS CITY -- Paulo Orlando drilled a two-run homer off Tigers reliever Drew VerHagen and the Royals rallied for a 7-4 victory at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday night.

Shortstop Alcides Escobar had tripled with one out in the seventh, and with two outs, Orlando blasted a shot that nearly hit the Royals Hall of Fame building in left, traveling a Statcast-projected 412 feet. Escobar also had a two-run double in the eighth.

Full Game Coverage

Video: DET@KC: Escobar plates two on double to right-center

"I tried to be aggressive after [VerHagen] threw two breaking balls and had a big swing," Orlando said. "I didn't feel it [off the bat]. I knew it was gone."

Royals right-hander Jason Hammel had a shaky start, giving up six hits, many on soft contact, and three runs in the first three innings. But he settled down and retired 11 of the last 12 batters he faced. He walked two and struck out six in six innings.

"I feel like that was the tale of my 2017 -- bleeders and then bombs," said Hammel, who gave up 26 home runs this season and finished with a 5.29 ERA. "I couldn't find the middle ground. I felt like I really didn't trick anybody this year. I'd like to say subpar year for myself individually."

Video: DET@KC: Hammel fans six over six solid frames

Tigers right-hander Jordan Zimmermann was even better. Zimmermann gave up just four hits and two runs while walking one and striking out three in six frames.

"Zim did a nice job," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "He had a good slider tonight, real good slider. Got us through six and we just couldn't lock it down in the bullpen tonight. Simple as that."

Scott Alexander got the win in relief, and Mike Minor notched his fourth save. 

Minor emerges as potential closer

Video: DET@KC: Minor retires McCann to earn his 4th save

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Whit's mad dash: In a play that was reminiscent of Game 6 of the 2015 American League Championship Series when Lorenzo Cain scored from first on a single, Whit Merrifield did the same trick to the Tigers. With Alex Gordon on second and and Merrifield on first, Melky Cabrera singled to right field, and Merrifield was waved home as right fielder Nicholas Castellanos was a tad slow making the throw home. Merrifield scored somewhat easily.

"Whit got a good jump," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He was coming hard. If you don't take for granted that the third-base coach is gonna slow you up there, you just run hard until you get the stop sign, which Whit does, you can make those types of plays."

Video: DET@KC: Melky plates a pair with a single to right

Tigers robbed: The Tigers had a great chance to tie the score in the eighth off lefty Alexander. With two outs, Dixon Machado and Andrew Romine, putting the tying run on second. Then Jose Iglesias sent a grounder toward left field. Escobar made a diving stop at shortstop to his knees, and flipped to second for the forceout.

"That was a huge play for them, and kind of stopped us in our tracks," Ausmus said. "They're a very good defensive team, so those hurt."

Video: DET@KC: Escobar lays out, gets the force at second

QUOTABLE
"I know I still have it. It's just a matter of going out there and doing it, and doing it for a full season, staying off the DL. So that's the plan for next year. I'm happy the way this start was. Obviously I want to win and everybody in here wants to win, but for me personally it was a good start to finish the year." -- Zimmermann

A FIVE-STAR CATCH
Orlando turned in a rare five-star catch in center field in the first inning. Tigers right fielder Castellanos sent a shot to right-center with two runners on. Orlando raced to his left and made a terrific sliding catch -- the play only had a 12 percent catch probability as Orlando needed to cover 86 feet in 4.5 seconds. Orlando's spring speed was 30.9 feet/second (30+ is elite speed).

"I got a pretty good jump on that ball," Orlando said. "The ball was sinking to right field but finally got a slide in and got it. I just extended my arm and felt it in my glove."

Video: DET@KC: Orlando covers 86 feet for five-star catch

AFTER FURTHER REVIEW
The Royals challenged a safe call in the second inning as Romine appeared to beat out a grounder hit to shortstop Escobar. The call was overturned.

Video: DET@KC: Escobar throws out Romine on overturned call

The Tigers tried to end a third-inning rally by challenging first-base umpire Greg Gibson's safe call on a pickoff attempt against Gordon at first. The call stood after a review.

Video: DET@KC: Gordon safe on pickoff attempt, call stands

WHAT'S NEXT
Tigers: Daniel Norris (4-8, 5.59) gets one more start this season as the series concludes with an 8:15 p.m. ET start Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Norris is 0-2 with a 4.78 ERA in six career starts against the Royals, including two rough outings this year.

Royals: Left-hander Danny Duffy (9-9, 3.68 ERA) makes his final start of the season on Thursday against the Tigers at 7:15 p.m. CT. Duffy gave up eight hits and two runs over six innings Saturday in an 8-2 win over the White Sox.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

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

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Jason Hammel, Jordan Zimmermann