DETROIT -- Watching from the bench as your teammates power through a big inning can bring mixed feelings to a starting pitcher. More runs mean greater flexibility to be aggressive on the mound, which, combined, often leads to wins.
On the other hand, if a starter is on a tear anything like Brady Singer was on Sunday, a long offensive push can also serve to inadvertently cool a hot arm.
Singer made it look easy early on in the Royals’ 7-4 win in Sunday’s rubber match, carving through the Tigers’ lineup with speed and efficiency through the first four frames. But the 25-year-old righty who took the mound in the bottom of the fifth was certainly not the same one who marched confidently off it to end the fourth.
“I think that was probably the best stuff I’ve had all year,” Singer said. “... It’s extremely frustrating. I definitely want to go deep in the games as much as I can and felt like I had the stuff to do it. I just kind of hit a roadblock in the fifth.”
At fault was a nearly 25-minute layoff on the bench while Kansas City sent eight men to the plate in the top of the fifth inning, scored twice and booted Tigers starter Tarik Skubal from the game. While the outburst pushed the lead to 5-0 in the Royals’ favor, it was also a big break in the action for Singer, who had just fanned four in a row and was having a career game.
Singer weathered the fifth as best as he could, limiting the damage to a two-run home run by Spencer Torkelson, but when Singer walked the bases loaded with two outs later in the frame, Royals manager Mike Matheny knew it was time to pull the plug.
“I know it’s really frustrating because it’s a win for him,” Matheny said. “I know that’s not [where] his mind is. His [mindset] is to go out there and give us a shutdown inning, let alone stay away from a 40-pitch inning. … It’s a shame for Brady, because his stuff was very, very good today.”
In the four innings prior, Singer once again made good use of his sinker and slider. It’s no secret that they’re his go-to pitches -- he relies on them more than 90 percent of the time -- but that doesn’t make them any less effective.
On Sunday in particular, both fired consistently as Singer showed the Tigers his best. He wasted no time out of the gate, striking out the side around a pair of singles in the first. Bolstered by a 3-0 lead thanks to home runs from Edward Olivares and Emmanuel Rivera, Singer kept coming at the Tigers during a nine-pitch second. He fanned two in the third and scorched again in the fourth, adding three punchouts to his line, two of them looking.
Entering the day, Singer’s career high in strikeouts was nine, set May 17 during a scoreless seven-inning outing against the White Sox that marked his first start back from Triple-A Omaha. He seemed primed to glide past that mark and into double-digits on Sunday when he struck out his eighth Tiger to end the fourth inning.
“That's probably the best sinker to lefties that I've seen in a long time,” Matheny said. “You could tell how much the ball was moving by how they kept reacting even after they’d already seen it a couple of times. It was that good.
“... I thought it was some of the best stuff he’s had. It was just like he was throwing darts from the side. Just a shame there with the long inning.”
When Singer secured punchout No. 9 in the fifth, catching Tucker Barnhart looking at a 93.1 sinker, it marked the fourth strikeout looking of the afternoon for Singer, who owns a 21.1 percent called strike rate that’s tied for the second-best mark in MLB.
Unfortunately, it also marked the end of Singer’s pinpoint control on Sunday, and the rest of the way was a grind. He dumped 38 pitches into his fifth-inning effort and still only managed to get two outs before Jose Cuas took over to end the threat.
In a perfect world, Singer would have kept rolling after the intermission, but if he had to choose, he’d always opt for a team win rather than an individual one.
There are, he was quick to remind, plenty more tries at both.
“I can’t complain about [my guys] scoring runs,” Singer said. “I’ve got to do better, and that’s nobody’s fault but mine. They had an incredible day; the offense was great.”