DETROIT -- Royals right-hander Jason Hammel and manager Ned Yost could sense the question coming: Did the third time through the Tigers' order on Monday doom Hammel again as it did so often in 2017?Hammel was cruising through four innings, giving up one and three hits. But the Tigers scored
DETROIT -- Royals right-hander Jason Hammel and manager Ned Yost could sense the question coming: Did the third time through the Tigers' order on Monday doom Hammel again as it did so often in 2017?
Hammel was cruising through four innings, giving up one and three hits. But the Tigers scored four runs against him in the fifth inning -- the third time through the order -- on their way to a 6-1 win at Comerica Park.
But both Hammel and Yost said Hammel's stuff was every bit as good in the fifth inning as it was earlier.
"Had a few [hits] fall in, basically is what happened," Hammel said, shrugging his shoulders.
Yost agreed, saying, "Third time around they just found some holes. … It's a tough situation, because he's at 50 pitches and throwing the ball well. It's not like he got to the third time through the lineup and they were bashing the ball off the wall. There was none of that."
Last year, opponents slugged .543 and had a .931 OPS against Hammel his third time through the order.
"But today was one of those maddening games where I feel like I executed the game plan pretty well," Hammel said. "It just didn't go our way. Everything felt great. I felt really good. But it's frustrating when you feel that good and come away with a loss."
Hammel gave up four hits and had an intentional walk in the fateful fifth inning.
Meanwhile, the Royals' offense showed little life against crafty left-hander Francisco Liriano, who went 6 2/3 innings and gave up four hits and one run.
"He mixed his pitches well," Yost said of Liriano. "Spotted his fastball, showed his fastball. But his slider and changeup really kept us off-balance."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Free pass haunts Royals: The Royals have seen enough of Jose Cabrera over the years to not have wanted any part of him with runners on second and third with one out in the fifth. The resulting intentional walk loaded the bases for Nicholas Castellanos, who singled in a run before Victor Martinez connected on an 0-2 high fastball for a line drive into the gap in right-center to plate his first two RBIs of the season.
"A little bad luck," Hammel said. "I think they caught onto the game plan, coming in hard on a few guys and they were able to get the bat to the ball."
Royals strike first: The Royals took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when shortstop Alcides Escobar doubled down the left-field line, advanced to third on a wild pitch from Liriano and scored on Andrew Butera's sacrifice fly to center field. Escobar also tripled in the fifth, his first two hits this season.
"This guy always throws good against us," Escobar said of Liriano. "He's got a really good fastball, slider, changeup. He can hit with those pitches inside, outside. I see the ball good on Lirianio, just waiting on the ball when I can and trying to hit the ball the other way."
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Two outs away from a loss, Paulo Orlando grounded into what looked like a game-ending 6-4-3 double play. But Kansas City challenged the call at first base, and Orlando was ruled safe to keep the Royals' hopes alive.
But unlike the situation last Friday, when a would-be Tigers victory over the Pirates was not to be as a result of an overturned call on a play at the plate, this time the Tigers prevailed despite the overturned call. Whereas Pittsburgh went on to win the game last Friday, the Tigers held on to win on Monday, getting Jorge Soler to fly out to end the game.
Right-hander Jakob Junis makes his first start of the season in Game 2 of the Royals' series with the Tigers on Tuesday at 12:10 p.m. CT. Junis went 9-3 in his rookie season in 2017 with a 4.30 ERA. Junis had a strong spring, going 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA in four Cactus League starts.
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Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @FlannyMLB.