DETROIT -- No, that was not a sigh of relief from Nicholas Castellanos as he dropped his head and let go of his bat on his first home run of the season Saturday. Nor was it a release of any pent-up frustration over the many hard-hit balls the Tigers right
DETROIT -- No, that was not a sigh of relief from Nicholas Castellanos as he dropped his head and let go of his bat on his first home run of the season Saturday. Nor was it a release of any pent-up frustration over the many hard-hit balls the Tigers right fielder has watched stay in the park for outs this season.
"I just put my head down and started jogging," said Castellanos, who finished a triple shy of the cycle in a three-RBI game as the Tigers outslugged the Royals for a 12-4 win at Comerica Park, Detroit's fifth win in six games.
JaCoby Jones continued his weekend onslaught on Kansas City pitching with a solo homer for his fourth hit and RBI of the series. Jose Cabrera walked and singled twice each, including a bases-loaded walk in a three-RBI, two-run game. But the heavy lifting came from Castellanos, who broke through after a 1-for-8 doubleheader Friday.
This is why Castellanos is batting in the cleanup spot between veterans Cabrera and Victor Martinez. While Cabrera and Martinez have track records, Castellanos has an emerging offensive game at a young age, having set career highs with 36 doubles, 10 triples, 26 home runs and 101 RBIs as a 25-year-old in 2017. He had several hard-hit outs that denied him a chance to add to those totals.
Castellanos' first few weeks have featured a continuation of those hard-hit struggles to an extent. Of his dozen balls in play entering Saturday with an exit velocity over 100 mph, according Statcast™, half of them went for outs. His hardest-hit ball in Friday's doubleheader was a line out.
Cabrera knows the feeling. After a decade at Comerica Park, he knows long outs can be frustrating, and he talks with players about maintaining their approach.
"What you need to do is keep the mind positive and keep going and someday, somehow, they're going to come," said Cabrera, who mentioned Dixon Machado as another hard-hit out victim.
Castellanos opened Saturday's game by taking advantage of the Royals' eagerness to shift their infield against Detroit's right-handed-hitting run producers. When second baseman Whit Merrifield shifted to the other side of the bag, Castellanos poked a ground-ball single through an open right side, where Merrifield had been, to score Leonys Martin.
Two innings later, the Royals shifted on Castellanos again following Cabrera's one-out walk. Castellanos hit over the shift and then some, sending Royals starter Danny Duffy's slider a projected 420 feet out to left.
It was a terrible pitch that led right into Castellanos' swing path, Duffy said afterwards. But it fueled a stretch in which Tigers batters worked Duffy deep into counts and wore him down on short rest.
"We had the perfect amount of aggressiveness," Castellanos said, "but we were also patient. We didn't chase too much out of the zone. We didn't help them out. We made them come to us, and good things happen when you do that."
The shift worked on Castellanos the next inning, his line drive heading right to Merrifield behind the bag. His bases-loaded drive to right-center the next inning took Abraham Almonte to the out-of-town scoreboard for the catch, a 401-foot out with a 97-percent hit probability. A seventh-inning drive into the gap in left-center bounced into the bullpen for a ground-rule double, moving Cabrera to third.
The Tigers put up multiple baserunners in all five innings against Duffy (0-3), who surrendered six runs on 10 hits over 4 2/3 innings. The Royals did the same in all but one of Tigers starter Mike Fiers' innings, but Fiers (2-1) limited the damage despite a pair of defensive miscues in a two-run fourth. Fiers yielded four runs (two earned) on 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Saupold with the save: The Royals had one more threat in them after Jorge Soler doubled to deep center field with two outs in the seventh off Daniel Stumpf, putting the tying run on deck in what was a 7-4 game. Warwick Saupold needed one pitch to retire Cheslor Cuthbert, then sent down the Royals in order in the eighth and ninth to record his first Major League save and his fourth at any level in the United States. He has 11 saves from pitching winter ball in his native Australia.
Fiers became just the second Tiger since 1908 to give up 10 or more hits in fewer than six innings, strike out nobody and earn a victory, according to Baseball Reference. Dan Petry was the other, scattering three runs on 11 hits over 5 1/3 innings in a win at Oakland on Sept. 2, 1984.
HE SAID IT
"Some article that came out said the 2018 Tigers will for sure stink or something. Well, not if we have something to say about it." -- Castellanos, on preseason predictions motivating his team
The Tigers and Royals wrap up their four-game series with another 1:10 p.m. ET start on Sunday at Comerica Park. Francisco Liriano will try to repeat his success against Kansas City from earlier this month, when he tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball on a chilly Monday afternoon in Detroit. He lines up opposite Royals lefty Eric Skoglund.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.