Royals skip beat in their second walk-off defeat
Vargas delivers strong debut, but Collins yields winning run in 10th
DETROIT -- Reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer's eight shutout innings weren't enough, but the Detroit Tigers figured out a way to win anyhow.
Ian Kinsler's 10th-inning RBI single gave the Tigers their second straight walk-off victory, 2-1, over the Royals to fire up 26,906 chilly fans on Wednesday at Comerica Park. Kinsler also provided the Tigers' first run with a homer.
Funny thing, though, it almost went all wrong for Scherzer right from the get-go. The first two batters he faced, Nori Aoki and Omar Infante, got on base in turn with a walk and a single. Eric Hosmer flied out to center.
One out, up came cleanup hitter Billy Butler and Scherzer got in a deep hole, three balls and no strikes. But Butler swung at the next pitch, bounced into a double play and the inning was over.
Butler got the green light to swing from manager Ned Yost. It was up to Butler to jump on a pitch that he liked.
"I'm not mad at myself for swinging at that," Butler said. "I got the green light, got a good pitch to hit and just got a bad result."
Scherzer had wiggled free but was mightily miffed with himself.
"After the first inning, I didn't feel like I was at 100 percent mentality. I felt like I got in line after the first," Scherzer said in the clubhouse. "I came up here, kicked a few things, kicked the laundry bin, fired myself up, and told myself to throw strike one. That's when I'm on my game."
He was certainly on his game after that.
"We had an opportunity in the first to get him and we couldn't capitalize on it, and he buckled down and was nails the rest of the day," Yost said.
So was Royals left-hander Jason Vargas, who surrendered only Kinsler's first-pitch home run in the fourth inning of his first Kansas City start.
"Vargy -- what a game he pitched. Wade Davis was awesome, [Kelvin] Herrera was really good," Yost said. "It was just one of those days when they matched up with a guy that was equally as good, Scherzer."
Once Scherzer was out of the game, the Royals caught up, 1-1, in the ninth against Tigers closer Joe Nathan, who experienced a rocky inning. Infante stroked a one-out single, pinch-runner Pedro Ciriaco stole second, and both Hosmer and Butler walked to jam the bases. That brought up Alex Gordon.
"Bases loaded, one out with Gordon, you never want to give up the lead, but you also don't want them taking the lead either," Nathan said. "So we'll take a fly ball the opposite way to tie the game and try to at least extend that game, give ourselves a chance to win it."
Indeed, Gordon's sacrifice fly to left field scored Ciriaco for the tie. However, Brett Hayes, in the game because a pinch-runner was used for Salvador Perez the previous inning, grounded into the third out.
After an instant replay challenge went against the Royals in the top of the 10th, the Tigers won in the bottom half against left-hander Tim Collins. He walked Austin Jackson, Alex Avila sacrificed, Nick Castellanos also walked and, after a second out, Kinsler delivered the game-ending single.
"You don't want to go out there and walk guys with a tie game," Collins said. "My job's to go out there and get three outs, and I couldn't find the plate today."
Kinsler stroked a 1-1 pitch into the left-center-field gap.
"He's a great hitter," Collins said. "I walked two guys and if I was to get out of that inning, I'd be pretty lucky. I tried to battle as best I could, but he got a pitch to hit and he did what he should have."
Nothing went right for the Royals including two instant replay challenges by Tigers rookie manager Brad Ausmus.
The first came in the sixth inning when the Royals lost a double play. First-base umpire Chris Conroy's out call on Tyler Collins was overturned, giving the Tigers a big scoring chance.
There was a three-minute review while the umpires in New York and Detroit sorted things out, but Vargas said he was unruffled.
"I didn't really think about that," he said. "I just thought what I was going to do about the next guy and try to keep that guy from scoring because I knew that one run could be the difference in the game."
And Vargas escaped, getting a tap to third baseman Mike Moustakas for an out at the plate, followed by a strikeout. He finished seven innings, regretting only that hittable curveball he threw to Kinsler.
"I feel bad for Vargy, he threw a great game and deserved every bit of a chance to win that game," Butler said.
The other umpire ruling that was overturned came in the Royals' 10th. Aoki was first ruled safe to give the Royals two on with two out, but the Tigers' won another challenge to a Conroy call. Instead, Aoki was out and the inning was over.
"That's what the system's there for. It works for you just like it's going to work against you," Yost said.
So far in embarking on what they're hoping will be a breakthrough season for the Kansas City franchise, the Royals have lost two one-run games -- both in the last inning.
Not to worry, according to Butler.
"Our team's not going to give up, I'll guarantee you that," Butler said. "We've got a bunch of fighters in here and we're going to battle to the last out. That's the way it's going to be all year. I'm confident we're going to give our pitchers more support than that. It just didn't work out yet."