No bailout in Detroit: Guthrie’s short start dooms Royals

Jeremy Guthrie's start lasted only 2 2/3 innings Monday afternoon in Detroit. 

Jerome Miron/Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Thud.

So much for the drama and excitement of a showdown between the first-place Royals and the Tigers, the team chasing them.

The Tigers manhandled the Royals easily, 9-5, in the first game of a three-game set in Detroit on Monday. As a result, Kansas City’s lead in the AL Central is down to one.

This one got away thanks to some shoddy defense by the Royals, and even worse starting pitching from Jeremy Guthrie, who didn’t make it out of the third inning after surrendering eight runs and 10 hits.

The Royals’ offense, slumping badly the last two weeks, did manage to show a hint of life late, getting two runs in the seventh and one more in the eighth. The Royals even had the tying run at the plate in Billy Butler with two out in the eighth. But Butler grounded out to second, killing the rally.

"I knew at some point we’d battle back," manager Ned Yost said on FOX Sports Kansas City’s Royals Live postgame show. "But (the Tigers) kept at it."

3 UP

— Nori’s hit. When the game was still in question, Nori Aoki came through in the third inning with a two-run bloop single to center. The Royals were trailing just 2-0 and had runners on second and third with one out. It was vital at that point that Aoki at least hit a grounder toward the middle because the Tigers were conceding a run with the infield back. Aoki did better than that with a hit, plating both runs.

— LoCain’s hustle. Lost in the shuffle of the day was Lorenzo Cain’s great read on that blooper by Aoki. Cain bolted from second base almost on contact, sensing the ball would drop (being an outfielder no doubt helped Cain’s perception). Cain scored so easily he almost caught Mike Moustakas, who was on third, at the plate.

— LoCain’s homer. Well, he didn’t exactly blast it, and it was a bit of a Little League homer, but Cain did come through with an inside-the-park homer in the seventh. Cain sent a fly ball to right-center, and as center fielder Don Kelly and right fielder Torii Hunter converged, they collided. The ball skipped away and Cain circled the bases as Hunter lay on the ground stunned, and Kelly couldn’t locate the ball.

3 DOWN

— Hoz’s errors. First baseman Eric Hosmer set the wrong tone in the second inning. With the bases loaded and two out, Guthrie appeared to escape a big jam when Andrew Romine rolled a routine grounder to Hosmer’s right. Hosmer didn’t position himself in front of the ball and then rather lazily tried the "ole" approach. He fumbled it. Then Hoz threw the ball away to Guthrie at the bag, allowing another run to score. Hoz deservedly was charged with two errors on the play.

— Guthrie’s command. The start of this showdown series, unfortunately for the Royals, fell in line with Guthrie’s scheduled start. Guthrie, who has come up with some big outings this year, nonetheless has been the weakest link in the rotation and owns an overall ERA over 5.00 since the All-Star break. And he clearly had no command against the Tigers on Monday. Guthrie threw almost 50 pitches through two innings as he constantly tried to nibble, and thus fell behind virtually every hitter. Yost, though, defended his pitcher. "I thought early on he was smooth," Yost said. Finally, Guthrie was chased in the third inning after digging the Royals an 8-2 deficit. "He was just one pitch away from getting out of that inning," Yost said.

— Infante’s health. The injury last week to Christian Colon (broken finger) really hurt the Royals because it took away Yost’s chance to give ailing Omar Infante some days off. Infante clearly is playing at only 70 or 80 percent because of a sore shoulder. He wasn’t able to turn a double play in the Tigers’ big third inning that could have stopped some of the scoring. Infante also couldn’t beat out a ball to deep short, which suggests that his bad back might be giving him trouble again. Credit Infante with manning up and trying to play hurt, but he simply isn’t able to contribute much.

You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.