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Tigers keep Royals at bay with shutdown relief

Jimenez delivers in 8th to set up Greene's AL-leading 20th save
June 13, 2019

KANSAS CITY -- The Tigers’ bullpen bounced back in strong fashion on Wednesday night and Joe Jiménez was leading the way. On Tuesday, Detroit squandered a one-run lead in the eighth with Jimenez temporarily not in that role because of some recent rough outings. But with a one-run lead in

KANSAS CITY -- The Tigers’ bullpen bounced back in strong fashion on Wednesday night and Joe Jiménez was leading the way.

On Tuesday, Detroit squandered a one-run lead in the eighth with Jimenez temporarily not in that role because of some recent rough outings. But with a one-run lead in the eighth on Wednesday, manager Ron Gardenhire went back to the hard-throwing right-hander and Jimenez responded with a seven-pitch, seven-strike inning that left closer Shane Greene in position to finish a 3-2 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

“I told Andy [pitching coach Rick Anderson] after last night, ‘This is Joe’s job’,” Gardenhire said. “Just take the ball in the eighth and go shut them down, and we’ll go from there. He did today.”

Box score

Overall, the Detroit bullpen finished the game in style with four scoreless innings after starter Daniel Norris surrendered two runs through five and left in a 2-2 game. Brandon Dixon delivered a sacrifice fly off Jake Diekman in the eighth for the winning run.

When informed that Gardenhire said the eighth-inning role again belonged to Jimenez, the right-hander simply responded in a low-key manner.

“I’ll take it and try to do my job again,” Jimenez said.

Jimenez added that he hadn’t made any major adjustments since his recent struggles.

“I just had it today,” Jimenez said. “Just getting the confidence again. It wasn’t there the last few times so it’s a good thing that I had a good outing today.”

JaCoby Jones, who was elevated to the leadoff spot with Niko Goodrum out because of a right knee contusion, drew two walks and scored two runs. For the second night in a row, the Tigers managed only five hits. But they loaded the bases with none out in the eighth against Diekman.

Miguel Cabrera struck out and Diekman got two strikes on Dixon before he launched the go-ahead sacrifice fly to deep right.

“Once it gets to two strikes, you’ve just got to battle against whatever he throws,” Dixon said. “He left one over the plate and I was able to do the job.”

Left-hander Nick Ramirez delivered a scoreless sixth and seventh before Jimenez and Greene took it the rest of the way.

“The bullpen was outstanding,” Norris said. “Hats off to them.”

Greene had to get Jorge Soler with a runner on to end the game. Soler, who had a couple of RBI hits off Norris, was retired on a fly ball to center and Detroit will thus have an opportunity to win the series when the third game is played in Omaha on Thursday night.

Greene’s American League leading 20th save is the most by a Tigers pitcher through 64 games.

Detroit can only hope Jimenez’s encouraging eighth inning will lead to more save opportunities for Greene moving forward.