Turnbull, Tigers struggle to slow Royals

September 26th, 2020

At some point after this season ends and the Tigers begin their managerial search in earnest, former Tigers catcher and current Royals third-base coach Vance Wilson’s name is expected to come up. So, too, could highly-regarded Royals bench coach Pedro Grifol. When that discussion begins, the Tigers' 3-2 loss to the Royals on Friday at Kauffman Stadium is likely to be a part of the talk.

With general manager Al Avila watching, the Royals showed the impact that sound, aggressive baserunning can make in a close game, even in an era that values home runs. One night after Kansas City and Detroit put on a slugfest, the Royals and Tigers combined for just four extra-base hits, none of them over the fence. The difference came down to how the Royals -- especially hot-hitting Adalberto Mondesi -- ran the bases and put pressure on Detroit’s defense and starting pitcher .

The Tigers have yet to retire Mondesi through two games of this series; he has reached base safely eight consecutive times. They also have struggled to slow him down aside from a pickoff-caught-stealing in Thursday’s series opener. Mondesi has put up two stolen bases in back-to-back games.

Mondesi has had the type of impact with his speed this series that Cleveland’s José Ramírez made with his power against the Tigers last week, or Tim Anderson for the White Sox against Detroit last month.

“We let those guys get on at the top of the order, and they create havoc,” interim manager Lloyd McClendon said, referring to Mondesi and well-established Tigers nemesis Whit Merrifield. “They can do some things on the basepath that really make it tough on you.”

Mondesi bunted his way on in the opening inning for a second straight night, advancing Merrifield to second base each time. Their double steal quickly put pressure on Detroit’s infield, which played in against cleanup hitter Salvador Perez.

Once Perez grounded out, the Tigers intentionally walked Maikel Franco to set up a potential inning-ending double play. But Ryan O’Hearn worked Turnbull for a seven-pitch, run-scoring walk to open the scoring.

An inning later, Turnbull was an out away from overcoming a leadoff double from Franchy Cordero, having struck out Merrifield on a curveball with Cordero on third. Turnbull went back to the curveball on his first pitch to Mondesi, who laced it into the right-field corner for an RBI triple.

“I probably should’ve bounced it,” Turnbull said. “I threw it more as a strike pitch, 0-0 [count], but with runners in scoring position there, knowing he’s been aggressive on me in the past, I’m thinking I probably would’ve been more apt to try to bounce it. If he doesn’t swing, it’s perfect, because it’s a strike and I’ve got him where I want him.”

Mondesi’s leadoff double in the fifth inning, challenging left fielder ’s arm, put Kansas City’s offense in motion once more, this time for the eventual deciding run. Mondesi took a big lead on Turnbull and stole third base without a throw, setting up Franco’s sacrifice fly two batters later.

“I did not feel good using my slide step mechanically tonight,” Turnbull said. “It’s something I’ve got to work on this offseason for sure.”

Turnbull (4-4) finished allowing three runs on six hits over five innings, striking out five in his season finale.

The Tigers produced just four singles in six scoreless innings against Royals starter Brad Keller, but rallied against Danny Duffy in the seventh. Harold Castro’s leadoff single and ’s double put two runners in scoring position and brought the potential tying run to the plate. ’s pinch-hit groundout plated Castro, then Goodrum’s alert steal of third allowed him to score on ’s sacrifice fly.

“Just kind of baited him there, showed him I wasn’t going [on the previous pitch] when in my mind, I really wanted to go,” Goodrum said. “I’m just looking at Salvy’s fingers, seeing what he’s putting down. The pitch I went on, he didn’t put any fastball down. Stealing a bag, you’re taking a risk anyway, so you try to pay attention as much as you can to what’s going on with his fingers.”

Goodrum looked for an opportunity in the ninth after his one-out walk off Jesse Hahn, who struck out Dixon and Haase to close it out.

“I wanted to go,” Goodrum said. “He held the ball on the pitch I was going to go on and kind of disrupted my timing.”

One year after Goodrum led the Tigers with 12 stolen bases, he’s 6-for-6 in a shortened season and might have had more if not for an oblique injury that cost him time and a drop in his on-base percentage. is 8-for-10 in steal attempts to lead the team and has potential impact speed, having stolen 109 bases over five Minor League seasons.

“It’s hard to defend speed, and it’s hard to stop it, as Kansas City has shown the first two games,” McClendon said.