Bad bounces plague Tigers in loss to Royals

With the Tigers struggling and Kansas City on a roll, it wasn't surprising that the Royals might get a couple lucky bounces on Wednesday afternoon.

Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon catches the fly out hit by Detroit Tigers' J.D. Martinez during the fourth inning.

Carlos Osorio
With the Tigers struggling and Kansas City on a roll, it wasn't surprising that the Royals might get a couple lucky bounces on Wednesday afternoon.

DETROIT -- With the Tigers struggling and Kansas City on a roll, it wasn't surprising that the Royals might get a couple lucky bounces on Wednesday afternoon.

It just doesn't usually happen quite so fast.

In the top of the first inning, with two out and a runner on second, Alex Gordon hit the world's most routine ground ball up the middle. Eugenio Suarez was in perfect position to field the ball and flip to first base to end the inning.

But the Royals are the hottest team in baseball, and the Tigers can't buy a break, so a ball hit up the middle turned out to be precisely up the middle. As Suarez watched helplessly, the ball hit second base and deflected into shallow right field for an RBI single.

"The way things have been going for us, I almost expected the ball to hit the bag," Smyly said. "That's just how things are going right now."

With a break like that, the Royals wouldn't win in a rout -- that would ruin the whole point of getting a lucky bounce. The final score was 2-1, as Detroit's offense couldn't reward Smyly's outstanding performance.

"Drew did a great job," Ausmus said. "He had really nice stuff, he got us into the eighth inning and he gave us a fantastic chance to win a game. We just didn't take advantage. Their guy threw well -- you have to give him credit -- but we have to find a way to score some runs."

Ausmus admitted that his response to Gordon's fluke single wasn't anything that could be used in print -- "and I'm pretty sure I said it out loud, too" -- but he wasn't willing to use that as an excuse for Detroit's 20th loss in 29 games.

"Those are the things that happen when one team is 9-20 and the other team has won 10 in a row," Ausmus said, "But it was one run in the top of the first inning. We had plenty of time to recover. That wasn't why we lost the game."

Ausmus was right, but it also wasn't the last time the Tigers had a reason to feel unlucky. Facing the usual shift and trying to kick-start the offense, Victor Martinez put down a perfect bunt down the third-base line. As the Royals watched helplessly, the ball rolled down the line toward the base, appearing to be the perfect execution of a smart play.

Except, two feet from third, the ball swerved to the left and rolled an inch on the foul side of the base.

Martinez groaned loudly in frustration when asked about the play.

At the end of the day, though, we just didn't get the job done again.

Don Kelly

"That's just how baseball goes some of the time," he said. "I'm just trying to do anything to get us a baserunner, especially with J.D. coming up next. He's been hitting the ball really well. It just didn't work."

J.D. Martinez did homer in the seventh inning, pulling the Tigers within 2-1, and everyone in the park thought they had tied the game moments later. With two out, Nick Castellanos crushed a hanging slider to left, and the ball evaded Alex Gordon's leaping grab. But even that wasn't enough. The wind blowing in from left was just strong enough that the ball hit the top of the fence instead of clearing it, leaving Castellanos with a double.

Royals manager Ned Yost immediately brought in hard-throwing reliever Kelvin Herrera. Don Kelly fouled off pitches at 98 and 99 mph, then harmlessly flew out to centerfield on a 90-mph changeup.

"The first two games of this series were tough, because they beat up our aces, but we know that JV and Max are going to give us a chance to win almost every time," Kelly said. "This one was just frustrating, because we came so close. Drew did a great job, but a ball hits the bag for them, and misses it for us, and then Nick misses a homer by an inch.

"At the end of the day, though, we just didn't get the job done again. That's what we need to change."