Tigers hang on for second straight win against Royals

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It wasn’t easy, but the Tigers hung on for a 3-2 victory over the Royals this afternoon at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. After taking the first two games of the series, Detroit now owns a 2 1/2 game lead over Kansas City in the American League Central. Meanwhile, the Royals are temporarily a full game behind the Athletics for the top Wild Card spot in the American League and find themselves tied with the Mariners for the second spot.

This was a day of missed opportunities for the Royals, starting with the very first inning. After Alcides Escobar led off the game with a double against Max Scherzer, Ned Yost had Nori Aoki — one of the game’s hottest hitters- drop down a sacrifice bunt. The decision didn’t pay off, as Scherzer got Josh Willingham and Alex Gordon struck out swinging to end the threat. We saw a similar scenario in the third inning, as Jarrod Dyson and Escobar reached on consecutive singles. Aoki dropped down a sacrifice bunt again, but Willingham followed with a foul pop-up and Gordon struck out swinging again. Yes, you have to give Scherzer a little credit here, but giving him free outs isn’t the best idea.

After Torii Hunter got the Tigers on the board with a solo homer in the fourth and the Royals drew even with an RBI single from Escobar in the fifth, things really got weird in the bottom of the sixth. The Royals had runners on second and third with one out when Omar Infante lined out to second baseman Ian Kinsler. Kinsler made an ill-advised throw in an attempt to double off the runner at second base, but shortstop Eugenio Suarez missed it and Salvador Perez came around to score to give the Royals a 2-1 lead. We then saw mass confusion, as the Tigers attempted to get the play reviewed on the grounds that Perez didn’t step on third base after the catch by Kinsler before coming home. It turns out that the play wasn’t reviewable, but the umpires got together and reversed the call, ruling Perez out. One wonders if they were influenced by the play being shown on the big screen and the reaction of the Tigers’ players and the crowd, but the most important thing is that they got the call right. Still, it was another missed opportunity for the Royals and they had reason to be frustrated with the process involved.

Watch the controversial play below:

[mlbvideo id=”36430619″ width=”400″ height=”224″ /]

The Tigers took the lead in the seventh after pinch-hitter Tyler Collins and Rajai Davis delivered back-to-back RBI singles to chase James Shields from the ballgame. Eric Hosmer got the Royals closer with an RBI single off Joba Chamberlain in the eighth before Joe Nathan came on for the save in the ninth. Mike Moustakas flew out to left field for the first out, but Dyson and Escobar followed with back-to-back singles to bring the tying to run into scoring position. Aoki grounded out to second base before Yost made his final big decision of the game by bringing Raul Ibanez to the plate as a pinch-hitter in place of Willingham. Yes, the same Ibanez who came into Saturday’s action batting .168 over 267 plate appearances this season. There would be no heroics in store, as Nathan got Ibanez to ground out to first base to end it. It was a compelling and entertaining ballgame, but a very tough loss for Kansas City.

The series will wrap up tomorrow afternoon. Rick Porcello will start for the Tigers and Jeremy Guthrie will pitch for the Royals.

UPDATE: About the controversial play in the sixth inning, Chris Iott of MLive.com reports that the umpires told a pool reporter that the video on the scoreboard was not a factor on the reversal of the call and that the decision was made due to umpire consensus. That’s not going to satisfy Royals fans, but there you go.

Manoah, Merrifield lead Blue Jays to 3-1 win over Rays

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Alek Manoah pitched seven shutout innings, Whit Merrifield hit a three-run homer and the Toronto Blue Jays regained the top AL wild-card spot with a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.

The Blue Jays lead Tampa Bay by one game. The top wild card finisher will host all games in their best-of-three opening-round series, while the other two wild cards play strictly on the road.

Manoah (15-7) scattered four hits, walked two and struck out eight while throwing a season-high 113 pitches. The righty worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth by striking out Randy Arozarena and getting a flyout from David Peralta.

Jordan Romano replaced Tim Mayza with two on and two outs in the eighth and allowed pinch-hitter Harold Ramirez‘s RBI infield single but avoided further damage by striking out Manuel Margot. Romano finished the game to get his 35th save in 41 chances.

Tampa Bay starter Drew Rasmussen (10-7) gave up one run, three hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out five.

The teams combined for 31 runs, with the Rays accounting for 20, in the first two games of the series that were both won by Tampa Bay.

Arozarena got the Rays’ first hit off Manoah with a two-out double in the fourth. He became the first Tampa Bay player and 20th big leaguer to have 40 doubles, 20 homers and 30 stolen bases in a season.

Teoscar Hernandez ended Rasmussen’s night with a double in the seventh. Brooks Raley entered and, after a walk to pinch-hitter Danny Jansen, Merrifield made it 3-0 on his 10th homer of the season.

Merrifield homered twice in Thursday night’s 10-5 loss to the Rays.

Alejandro Kirk opened the second with a single before Rasmussen retired 12 in a row until Merrifield’s leadoff double in the sixth.

Plate umpire Corey Blaser took a hard foul ball by Margot on the mask in the eighth but remained in the game.

HONORING KK

The Rays posted a thank you on the message board for CF Kevin Kiermaier, who is out for the season following left hip surgery. Kiermaier is in the final season of a $53.5 million, six-year contract that includes a club option for 2023 that is expected to be declined.

TEAM AWARDS

Rays ace Shane McClanahan was voted the Don Zimmer MVP award winner by members of the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. CF Jose Siri was selected as the outstanding rookie. 3B Yandy Diaz received the Paul C. Smith Champions award as the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Nate Pearson (lat strain) allowed three runs and three hits over two-thirds of an inning for Triple-A Buffalo.

Rays: 2B Brandon Lowe (lower back) is done for the season.

UP NEXT

McClanahan (12-6), pulled from his start Tuesday in the fifth inning due to neck tightness, will face Blue Jays RHP Ross Stripling (8-4) on Sunday.