Kansas City’s win over the Los Angeles Angels on Monday could have seemed like a fluke. A last-place team’s going to pull an upset against a first-place team on occasion, right?
Two in a row? Maybe these Royals haven’t given up just yet.
Billy Butler drove in two runs, Kansas City’s bullpen pitched 4 1-3 scoreless innings and the Royals ended the first-place Detroit Tigers‘ six-game winning streak with a 7-5 victory Tuesday night.
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“I don’t think we’ve quit at all,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said. “I still see effort, I still see energy. Guys get depressed a little bit when you’ve lost as many games as we’ve lost, but for me – without overstating it – it takes a heck of lot of character to continue to come back against a first-place club.”
That’s consecutive wins for the first time since July 27-28 at Baltimore, against two first-place teams, no less.
It’s not just that the Royals did it. It’s how they did it.
The offense, mired in a seemingly never-ending slump, produced 11 hits, went 6 for 13 with runners in scoring position. Butler had a double and a run-scoring single off Bobby Seay (5-3) in the seventh, and Mike Jacobs had a rare opposite field hit to drive in another run.
And the bullpen – wow.
Royals relievers came through for the second straight game, picking up after Bruce Chen‘s wobbly start.
Yasuhiko Yabuta (1-1) allowed two hits in 2 1-3 innings for his second career victory, Roman Colon pitched a perfect eighth and Joakim Soria survived two hits in the ninth for his 23rd save.
“Every game means something – it’s the big leagues, it’s where you want to be,” said Butler, who had two homers and four RBIs against the Angels on Monday. “If you don’t want to be out here, we don’t want to have you on our team.”
The AL Central-leading Tigers scored five runs off Chen in 4 2-3 innings, but went through six pitchers and had two costly outfield miscues.
Marcus Thames and Aubrey Huff drove in two runs each and Ryan Raburn homered for Detroit, which remained 6 1/2 games in front of Minnesota.
“Sometimes I guess you’re not supposed to win a game,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “We didn’t play very well. We had our chances to win the game, but we didn’t. It’s not that things didn’t go our way, we didn’t have them go our way. We made two or three mistakes and they made us pay for them.”
Detroit starter Rick Porcello wasn’t sharp, but gave the Tigers a chance.
The rookie right-hander gave up four runs and seven hits in six innings, though it could have been less if not for a miscue by Raburn in the fifth inning.
Trying to line up Josh Anderson‘s liner in left, Raburn took a step in, then scrambled as the ball sailed over his head for a double. Mitch Maier followed with a soft run-scoring double to center and Butler’s warning-track sacrifice fly.
Porcello still ended up leaving with a 5-4 lead, but Detroit’s bullpen – thanks to a miscue by right fielder Clete Thomas – couldn’t hold it.
Raburn did his job on David DeJesus‘ single, double-clutching and still getting Yuniesky Betancourt by two steps at the plate. Then Thomas, worried about the wall, barely got a glove on Butler’s foul ball in the corner. Two pitches later, Butler lined a run-scoring single through the right side and Jacobs followed with an RBI single to left that made it 6-5.
“There’s not a whole lot of foul territory here,” said Thomas, who entered in the seventh as a defensive replacement. “I kind of glanced at the wall a little too late to see where I was instead of checking on it earlier. I just missed it.”
It still wasn’t over. Kansas City hasn’t had much luck closing out wins, unable to get clutch hits, waiting for the bullpen to blow up.
This time, it didn’t happen.
The bullpen held and DeJesus hit a sacrifice fly – on another close play at the plate involving Betancourt and Raburn – to give the Royals a two-run lead in the eighth.
Two wins over two first-place teams. Not bad.
“It was good to see the bullpen perform, it was good to see the offense get some clutch hits and keep battling,” Hillman said. “It was very refreshing, considering who we were doing it against.”
NOTES: The Tigers recalled LHP Dontrelle Willis (anxiety disorder) and RHP Alredo Figaro (wrist) from their rehab assignments. Both remain on the DL. … Detroit has homered in 12 of its past 13 road games.