KANSAS CITY -- Royals rookie left-hander Kris Bubic’s final start of 2020 is one he’ll likely just want to flush from his memory.
Coming off four straight solid starts in which he gave up just five earned runs in 22 2/3 innings, Bubic never found his rhythm or command in the Royals’ 8-7 victory over the Tigers on Thursday night.
“[Newberry] has been one of those invaluable pieces for us,” Royals manager Mike Mathney said. “He takes any assignment we give him. Right there we were pushed into a corner and needed someone to pick us up, and he did a great job.”
Newberry said he didn’t have any nerves in the eighth inning. But in the ninth?
“A little bit,” Newberry said. “I knew it was my first legitimate opportunity [for a save]. But I just went out there and tried to compete.”
Bubic was staked to a lead throughout his outing, but he could not survive the fifth inning. He left after 4 2/3 frames, having allowed eight hits, three walks and four runs. He struck out five.
“He came out and looked pretty good in the first,” Matheny said. “He was challenging guys, getting ground balls. Then he just got in a little bit of trouble. Overall, he’s continuing, in my mind, to make better pitches with his fastball. To me, it’s all about controlling the count for him. When he can do that, he’s going to have better luck.”
Indeed, if the old adage is true that strike one is the best pitch in baseball, it’s no secret why Bubic struggled. Falling behind hitters has been an issue for him this season, and of the 23 Detroit hitters he faced, he threw 16 first-pitch balls.
“Still my Achilles heel, falling behind too much and putting me in some tough spots,” Bubic said. “I think they took away my changeup, either they spit on some of them or put good swings on them. That kind of made me a two-pitch pitcher with my fastball and curveball.”
Bubic’s inability to get ahead set up the Tigers in favorable counts.
It helped Willi Castro, who blasted a 1-0 changeup that was down the middle from Bubic for a two-run home run in the third.
In the fifth, Bubic fell behind Miguel Cabrera 3-0, fought back, but then served up a 3-2 four-seam fastball that the slugger belted to dead center for a 450-foot two-run homer.
Bubic finished his rookie season with a respectable 4.32 ERA and an 8.82 K/9 ratio in 10 starts.
“I felt I got better as I went along this season,” Bubic said. “I made some adjustments as we went along. The experience was invaluable. You can’t put a metric on that.”
Meanwhile, there is another Royal who would rather the 2020 season never end -- catcher Salvador Perez.
The red-hot Perez delivered yet another home run -- his third in two days and 11th of the season -- with a three-run shot in the first inning.
Since coming off the injured list for blurred vision in his left eye on Sept. 11, Perez is hitting .451 (23-for-51) with seven home runs and six doubles.