DETROIT -- The first RBI of Sunday afternoon for the Tigers came on the last swing of the day. Jarrod Saltalamacchia's two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth was a walk-off blast, sending Detroit to a 4-2 win over Kansas City to take the three-game series at Comerica
DETROIT -- The first RBI of Sunday afternoon for the Tigers came on the last swing of the day. Jarrod Saltalamacchia's two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth was a walk-off blast, sending Detroit to a 4-2 win over Kansas City to take the three-game series at Comerica Park.
Starters Michael Fulmer and Yordano Ventura dueled for seven-plus innings.
Cheslor Cuthbert's second-inning RBI double and Eric Hosmer's third-inning RBI single accounted for Kansas City's runs off Fulmer before Ventura's third-inning balk and sixth-inning wild pitch plated runs to lead Detroit back.
Royals manager Ned Yost said of Fulmer, "He's got some of the best stuff you're going to face -- very consistent with great stuff down in the zone, has a tremendous slider. We did a nice job of getting two runs off him. But he's tough."
Former Tiger Joakim Soria (3-4) entered for the Royals in the ninth and gave up two hits in three pitches. After Tyler Collins' leadoff single, Saltalamacchia turned on a 1-0 fastball and raised his arms as it sailed into the right-field seats for his ninth home run of the season.
"At that point, it felt really good, because I was starting to get a little gassed," Saltalamacchia said. "I was trying to get him over somehow and I was able to do that."
Said Soria, "He just happened to hit a ball hard there. I think I commanded my fastball where I wanted to. Sometimes you have to admit they are professional baseball players, too, and they hit the ball hard.
"It was not a bad pitch. It was a fastball inside. And Salty is a pull hitter that, most of the time with a fastball inside, he puts it in the stands with a foul ball. But somehow he stayed with the bat longer in the zone so he could hit a homer."
Tigers closer Francisco Rodríguez (1-0) earned his first win in a Detroit uniform by setting down the Royals in order in the top of the ninth.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Salty saves it: After two strikeouts and a walk his first three times up, Saltalamacchia said he was looking for a bunt sign when he stepped to the plate in the ninth. After a first-pitch ball, he was expecting a hit-and-run call. He didn't get either, so he tried to hit the ball to the right side to advance Collins. The fastball he got from Soria allowed him to do a lot more.
"I knew I got it, because I didn't even feel it off the bat," Saltalamacchia said. "The wind was kind of blowing in from right, so I knew you had to hit it good." More >
Strange giveaways: Ventura has pitched even better than his last two lines have suggested. The last four runs to score off Ventura have come on two wild pitches and a balk. In his last start against the Mariners, he gave up three runs, the last two coming home on one wild pitch. On Sunday, Ventura was called for a balk with the bases loaded that gave the Tigers their first run -- just the second balk of his career -- before his wild pitch in the sixth. Ventura went seven innings and gave up eight hits with six strikeouts in a no-decision.
After the game, the Royals' clubhouse was still fuming about the balk call.
"To start off, that was not a balk," Ventura said through interpreter Pedro Grifol.
Added Yost, "They said that it was a non-stop [balk], which was not even close [to being true]. Nothing about that even resembled a balk. He came set for a full second-plus and did a nice slide step. Something threw [home-plate umpire D.J. Reyburn] off there." More >
Nick the quick:Nick Castellanos was not expecting a chance at three bases on his sixth-inning gapper to right-center, but he accelerated when the ball sent Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando chasing. The two-out triple was Castellanos' team-leading fourth three-bagger of the year, and put him in position to score the tying run.
"We've got a big park, so if you get enough balls in that right-center gap, it's pretty deep out there," Castellanos said. "So you put your head down and run hard."
Little ball, big ball: The Royals got on the board in the second when Orlando became their first batter to reach, and he did so with a perfect bunt single down the third-base line. Cuthbert followed with a lined shot into the right-field corner that plated Orlando and gave the Royals a 1-0 lead.
"I touched them [all], until I got to home, and I guess I threw the helmet a little high and hit [Miguel Cabrera] in the head, so I feel kind of bad. I might get released after the game."
-- Saltalamacchia, on rounding the bases after his walk-off homer
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Sunday marked the first game since May 15 that Fulmer allowed multiple earned runs in an outing. He had thrown nine consecutive outings with one or no earned runs allowed. More >
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, normally deliberate in his decision whether to challenge, didn't waste much time disputing a caught-stealing call on Justin Upton in the fourth inning that left even Royals catcher Salvador Perez shaking his head. Replay review showed Upton was safe, overturning the call.
Royals: Kansas City will open a nine-game homestand with a three-game set against the American League Central-leading Indians that begins Monday at 7:15 pm. CT. Right-hander Edinson Vólquez (8-8, 4.85 ERA) makes his first post-break start.
Tigers: The homestand at Comerica Park continues Monday night, when the Twins come to town to begin a three-game series. Matt Boyd (0-2, 5.77 ERA) makes his seventh start of the season for Detroit in the opener at 7:10 p.m. ET. Ricky Nolasco (4-7, 5.22 ERA) starts for Minnesota.
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Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.