One night after having their seven-game win streak snapped, the Tigers were on their way back to the win column with a six-run lead over the Royals in the fifth inning.
The early lead, powered by a three-run home run from Jeimer Candelario in the third inning, gave Detroit a 90 percent win probability, according to Statcast. But two swings from Kansas City’s veteran bats flipped the script during the Tigers' 9-8 loss on Saturday at Kauffman Stadium.
Reliever Joe Jiménez held the game at 6-4 with his 1-2-3 sixth inning, but Kyle Funkhouser could not replicate that success in the seventh. Funkhouser, who entered play Saturday with a 0.52 ERA in his last 17 1/3 innings, allowed back-to-back one-out singles before a three-run homer to Carlos Santana surrendered Detroit’s lead.
“It wasn't his sharpest outing,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said on Funkhouser’s relief appearance. “They just kept kind of pecking away at him and came up with a really huge swing with Santana. Just an unfortunate outing for him.”
Starter Casey Mize, whose 4 2/3 innings marked his longest outing since throwing six innings on June 26, suffered a similar fate before his exit.
Mize kept the Royals scoreless through his first four innings and limited them to two hits and one walk heading into the fifth.
Mize allowed a run after three consecutive singles to start the frame, then followed that by striking out Whit Merrifield and getting Santana to fly out. A two-out mistake pitch to Salvador Perez ended up as a 452-foot three-run homer and led Hinch to remove Mize from the game after 79 pitches.
Mize said his outing began to snowball during the fifth inning, adding that he was frustrated with not being able to limit the damage on a night during which the Tigers' offense gave him an early lead and forced opposing starter Carlos Hernández to be pulled after 2 2/3 innings.
“I hate it for our team in a game [that] we scored that many runs,” Mize said. “Our offensive production was stellar tonight. We played good defense as well. I just hate that I didn't throw the ball better and put us in a better chance to win."
Unfortunately for the Tigers, the comeback attempt ended with Candelario striking out on a check swing on a 2-2 curveball.
Hinch said the energy from his club never wavered even after Detroit lost the lead.
“We're pretty good about playing the full game,” he said. “Even when we fell behind, there was [a] ton of energy. We needed to make a push, and we did. ... We had really good at-bats, one after another. [We] went through their closer. Went through their backup closer. [Davis] made a pitch at the end to end the game, but Akil's at-bat was big. So was everybody after that in that inning.”