DETROIT -- The Tigers had plenty of issues to tackle after their 8-7 walk-off win over the Royals, from another catching injury to a bullpen struggling to bridge the gap to closer Gregory Soto. Their offense, at least, might finally be settling into a consistent approach.
After nearly three weeks of struggling to put up runs, Detroit will take it.
“You can see that the more good at-bats you put together, the better chance we have of scoring runs, and the more runs we score,” said Robbie Grossman, whose two-out single in the ninth scored Niko Goodrum to end it. “And going forward, that’s just something we have to do. That has to be our identity as a team, to put together good at-bats and good things will happen.”
Detroit built a 7-0 lead and a 99.7 percent win probability, according to Statcast, by stringing together hits. The Royals rallied largely on two big swings from Jorge Soler in the eighth and ninth, the latter after a costly error on what would have been a game-ending grounder.
The Tigers stuck with their approach, building a game-winning rally on a hit-by-pitch, a four-pitch walk and another shrewd piece of hitting from Grossman.
Grossman’s bases-clearing triple in the fifth inning secured the seven-run lead. His ground ball through the right side of the infield made sure it wasn’t for naught.
“We played well enough to win this game, and I didn’t want to go home on the other side of this,” Grossman said. “I’m just glad it happened.”
The Tigers picked apart Brady Singer on Tuesday with the same situational hitting and pragmatic baserunning the Royals used against them a couple of weeks ago. Jonathan Schoop’s leadoff triple in the fourth had a 109.5 mph exit velocity, enough to carry past Michael A. Taylor’s diving attempt and roll to the bullpen fence. None of the other three hits off Singer that four-run inning topped 80 mph.
Not only did bloop singles from Willi Castro, Akil Baddoo and Grayson Greiner fall in front of Royals outfielders to score runs, they had enough hang time to allow baserunners to go from first to third. All three were off different pitches as well, with Castro essentially golfing a changeup near his shoetops.
Again, the Tigers were disciplined, much more than in their previous meeting with Singer. They avoided double-digit strikeouts for the third time in four games, drew six walks and took three hit-by-pitches, and batted 5-for-13 with runners in scoring position. They scored as many runs in one inning off Singer as in their other 28 innings against him combined.
Singer held them to one run on three hits over seven innings two weeks ago, striking out eight as part of a four-game Royals sweep at Comerica Park. The Tigers scored just five runs in the series, part of a 2-14 stretch in which they plated just 26 runs and didn’t score more than five runs in any game.
Detroit’s hitters began making progress a week ago in Boston, scoring 22 runs in three games at Fenway Park, but they still lost two of three as the Tigers’ pitching fell apart. They’re now looking like a more cohesive lineup and a more competitive team.
Grossman fought out of an 0-2 count for a sacrifice fly in the fourth, then tripled off the first pitch he saw from Jake Brentz. He couldn’t have imagined needing to win it in the ninth.
Goodrum, whose error on a grounder extended the ninth inning for Soler’s bases-clearing double, was hit by a pitch to lead off the bottom of the ninth. Two strikeouts and a Baddoo four-pitch walk later, up came Grossman trying to avoid extra innings as Royals reliever Scott Barlow tried to get him to chase.
“He started me off with sliders,” Grossman said, “and I saw the shake from the catcher on, I guess, the fourth pitch. They had a mound visit and I was like, ‘The heater’s going to show up at some point.’”
On the 1-2 pitch, after three consecutive breaking balls, he got the fastball. Grossman sent a grounder just in front of Baddoo at first, and just out of first baseman Carlos Santana’s reach. And as the ball carried towards the right-field corner, he sent a sigh of relief through the Tigers’ dugout.
“We played well tonight,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “And I know it doesn’t feel that way because the game got really close there, but I was proud of our effort.”
Greiner exits with hamstring tightness
Greiner’s RBI single was his final at-bat of the game. He left the game before the next inning with left hamstring tightness, an injury Hinch said will likely require a stint on the injured list to recover.
“Initially, I don’t think it’s that bad,” Hinch said, “but I think it’s going to be bad enough for us to consider a roster move.”
Tigers starting catcher Wilson Ramos is already on the 10-day IL with a lumbar spine strain. The team is hoping to get him back when he’s eligible to return next week, but could test their depth until then. Jake Rogers was called up from Triple-A Toledo when Ramos went on the IL, but no other catchers are on the 40-man roster. Eric Haase, who made a brief appearance last season, could be brought back from Triple-A Toledo.