DETROIT -- The Tigers trailed in just one of the 19 innings they played against the Royals in Friday's day-night doubleheader. They played good baseball in the first 18. The last wasn't particularly pretty.
"The team fought their tails off today. Should've came away with two W's, but baseball happened," closer Shane Greene said after a two-run ninth-inning rally that sent the Tigers to a 3-2 loss and a split of the twin bill at Comerica Park. JaCoby Jones' homer in Game 1 gave Detroit a 3-2 walk-off win in 10 innings.
The Tigers have spent so much time battling at the end of games so far this season that losing one isn't likely to ruin their psyche. They were an inning away from a five-game winning streak and a .500 record. Still, late losses are often seen as tests for younger teams, particularly if they're struggling and don't have many leads late, which is why good bullpens and veteran relievers can be such a premium everywhere.
Greene's downfall wasn't on a crushing hit or a regrettable pitch, but a trio of singles and a run-scoring error. As Abraham Almonte's pinch-hit blooper fell just out of the reach of a charging Nicholas Castellanos in shallow right field, sending Ryan Goins around from second, the Tigers' control slipped away in an unlikely pitching duel, with Jose Cabrera out of the starting lineup for the nightcap.
Niko Goodrum, who started at first base in Cabrera's place, bobbled Jonathan Jay's ensuing grounder, then overthrew Greene covering first as Alcides Escobar rounded third.
"I don't know if he was thinking about second base when it was hit," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It looked like he realized he was going to have to go to first and then bobbled it. And then he just made a bad throw. It's just what happens. It's one of those plays and it didn't work out for us."
Goodrum, who has filled the super utility role, was making his third start at first this season. He has replaced Cabrera on defense late in four other games. The decision going into the doubleheader, Gardenhire said, was that Cabrera would get out of the field for the second game. The only way he was going to enter was as a pinch-hitter, which Cabrera did with two out in the ninth, hitting a single to put the potential tying run on base against Royals closer Kelvin Herrera.
"The kid probably feels pretty bad about it," Gardenhire said, "but you know what, he busts his tail every day working at every position. No one's going to feel worse than that young man is. He'll be back out there tomorrow working."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Hours after his walk-off home run in the opener, Jones contributed to the Tigers' runs in the nightcap. After tripling and scoring in the third inning, he delivered a clutch go-ahead sacrifice fly in the seventh. After falling into an 0-2 hole, Jones fouled off a sinker at the knees to stay alive for a pitch in the middle of the zone that he could lift. The fly ball to center left Paulo Orlando with no play at the plate.
"He's worked very hard on shortening his swing, putting the ball in play more, not getting so wild swinging," Gardenhire said. "It's all about recognizing pitches and he's doing that a little bit better. He's shortened his swing and concentrating on banging the ball somewhere."
The umpiring crew for Game 2 included Venezuelan-born Carlos Torres, Dominican-born Ramon De Jesus and Puerto Rico-born Roberto Ortiz, along with acting crew chief Kerwin Danley.
HE SAID IT
"It'll come back. I'm not too worried about it. I've been searching under my bed and in garbage cans and everywhere looking for it, but it'll come back at some point." -- Game 2 starter Daniel Norris, on his usual fastball velocity after averaging 88.6 mph with the pitch on Friday, according to Statcast™. Norris allowed one run on three hits over 4 2/3 innings.
Right-hander Mike Fiers (1-1, 3.86 ERA) will get to pitch in warmer weather for the first time during his Tigers tenure as he squares off against lefty Danny Duffy and the Royals at 1:10 p.m. ET on Saturday at Comerica Park. Fiers gave up five earned runs over 5 2/3 innings, including two home runs, in a chilly loss to the Yankees on April 13.