Mercer's 1st walk-off HR caps slugfest with KC

AL Central rivals combine to hit 8 home runs in series opener

August 9th, 2019

DETROIT -- saw the way the ball was flying all over Comerica Park on Thursday night. He still wasn’t sure his opposite-field liner in the ninth inning was headed out.

He knew he hit Richard Lovelady’s fastball well. He just didn’t know if it had enough.

“I knew it had a good chance to at least get off the wall,” Mercer said. “I kept telling it to get up. I was yelling at it. Because I knew I got enough of it, but I didn’t know if I got enough of it to go actually over.”

He did, barely, hitting the first row of right-field seats. At a projected distance of 364 feet, according to Statcast, it was the shortest of the eight home runs hit combined by both teams in the Tigers’ 10-8 walk-off win over the Royals, but it was the biggest.

“I just couldn’t wait to get back to my teammates, to be honest with you,” Mercer said of his thoughts rounding the bases on his first career walk-off homer and fifth career walk-off hit. “I was thinking about how cold the Gatorade bath was going to be, running down third, because I saw it already out of the corner of my eye. I’m like, ‘Oh, here it comes.’”

Somebody poured out the water jug on him. followed with the Gatorade. Somebody emptied the gumball jar.

The way the Tigers have struggled, they needed a win like this. The way Detroit and most other teams have struggled to hit here, the Tigers had every night to revel.

These are the kinds of games the rest of baseball has been watching with regularity. These are not games often seen at Comerica Park, at least not since the days when J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton formed a formidable trio with in his healthy prime.

Detroit and Kansas City entered the opener of a four-game set with the two lowest-scoring offenses in the American League, and two of the lowest three in the Majors in runs scored and home runs. By the time the teams were done swinging at one of baseball’s biggest ballparks, the place former Tigers slugger Nicholas Castellanos had criticized two weeks ago for curtailing home runs, the clubs had combined for over a half-mile of homer distance and four home runs apiece.

“It was definitely flying,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Hope Nick was watching. ... Just a joke. We love you, Nicky."

When someone pointed out that Castellanos hit two home runs for the Cubs on Thursday, Gardenhire said: "But not here."

Though the Tigers had three four-homer games and one five-homer display previously this season, all had been on the road. They hadn’t hit four home runs in a game at Comerica Park since doing so on April 18, 2018 against the Orioles. Likewise, Detroit hadn’t given up four homers in a game at Comerica Park and won since Sept. 20 of last year, also against the Royals.

By the end, the Lions-Patriots NFL preseason game next door at Ford Field couldn’t keep up with the aerial show on display here.

"Man, the ball was carrying today," Mercer said. "I don't know what was going on, [if] the wind was blowing out. Maybe the Lions were sucking it all in over there, I don't know, helping us out. I don't really know. It was different, though, especially here because the park plays huge. It was good to see."

The onslaught began from the game’s third batter, with Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier jumping on a first-pitch fastball from starter Matthew Boyd for an opposite-field two-run homer. Six innings later, Travis Demeritte went to the same area of the ballpark for his own opposite-field shot, this one into the tunnel beyond right-field fence, for his first Major League home run to tie the game at 8. In between, the two sides peppered the park with drives, making this large ballpark somehow look small.

Harold Castro’s second-inning drive carried toward the cutout in right-center, where the distance balloons from 365 feet into the 380’s in a hurry. But the 32-degree loft and 89-foot height provided just enough carry to send the ball off the railing atop the fence and fuel a five-run inning that chased Royals starter Jorge Lopez.

Dozier waited until the second next of the next inning before sending a 420-foot drive into the left-field seats. Cheslor Cuthbert’s 446-foot drive two batters later went towards the depths of left-center, clearing the bullpen before hitting the brick wall behind the seats.

“I knew I was out of sync from the get-go,” said Boyd, who allowed three runs for the third time this season. “It’s not the first time it’s happened, but I just couldn’t make the adjustment.”

Cabrera’s 374-foot drive landed on top of the bullpen dugout for his 473rd career home run, tying him with former Marlins teammate Carlos Delgado for 33rd on MLB’s all-time list. Alex Gordon’s 15th career home run at Comerica Park, second-most among visiting players, mocked the deepest part of the park, a 454-foot drive where out-of-town scoreboard meets the long center-field wall. Had Gordon hit it to straightaway center, it might have hit the camera well, or at least the second row of shrubs.

“This was a fun ballgame,” Gardenhire said. “You just have to move on and do it again.”