Royals hold off Tigers for 7-6 win
DETROIT — Alex Gordon likes to test out his leaping grabs at the Comerica Park wall during batting practice. He’ll hoist himself up with his right hand so that his glove hand can get maximum elevation.
Those practice efforts paid off Monday.
The Kansas City Royals left fielder robbed Mikie Mahtook of a three-run homer in the fourth inning andthat play proved crucial in a 7-6 victory over the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
“The last couple of (batting practice) rounds, I try to go back to the fence and just play around with it,” Gordon said. “It’s a short fence and you can kind of grab it and get over it a little bit. It’s just something I do during batting practice.”
Mahtook smacked palms with first-base coach Omar Vizquel, then stared in disbelief as Gordon came down with the ball.
“When he hit it, it came off the bat pretty well,” Gordon said. “I just tried to get back to the fence right away and get in a good position. Luckily, it didn’t get too far over. I just timed my jump perfectly and was able to make a good catch.”
Center fielder Lorenzo Cain also made a pivotal catch in the sixth, snaring Jose Iglesias’ liner with runners in scoring position.
“Just saving runs,” Gordon said. “That’s what we try to do as defenders. It’s pretty frustrating for an offense when you can go out there and make plays like that.”
Eric Hosmer homered and drove in three runs as the Royals ruined Artie Lewicki’s major league debut.
Hosmer had a run-scoring single and two-run homer in support of starter Jakob Junis (7-2), who pitched the minimum five innings to notch the victory. Junis allowed three runs and seven hits and struck out three.
Scott Alexander got the last out for his third save after Detroit staged a three-run rally in the ninth inning. He retired Mahtook on a fielder’s choice with two runners aboard.
“I’m just trying to attack the bottom part of the zone and make them hit it on the ground, hopefully at somebody,” said Alexander, who relies on a power sinker. “Just trying to stick to your strengths in that situation.”
Melky Cabrera contributed a two-run double for Kansas City (68-68) and Salvador Perez and Alcides Escobar added solo home runs. Cain had three hits and scored a run, and Whit Merrifield chipped in two hits and scored twice.
Lewicki gave up five runs and 11 hits in five innings. He won all five of his starts with Triple-A Toledo before getting called up.
“He got in trouble when he was up in the zone, both the curveball and the fastball,” Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said. “The big plus is that he throws strikes, he’s not afraid of the hitters. It’s his first time facing major-league hitters, first time in a big-league stadium — it can be a little bit daunting.”
Nicholas Castellanos drove in four runs, including a three-run homer in the ninth, but Detroit (58-79) lost its fifth straight.
“They actually showed a lot of fight there in the last inning,” Ausmus said. “A couple opportunities early in the game we didn’t capitalize on came back to haunt us, but the offense really did a nice job, especially against the back end of their bullpen.”
Alex Presley and Jeimer Candelario had three hits apiece.
Hosmer gave the Royals an early lead with a two-out RBI single in the first inning.
Kansas City extended the lead to 5-0 in the third. Merrifield and Cain started the inning with singles. Cabrera brought both of them home with a double to left center. Hosmer then followed with his opposite-field blast.
Junis wasn’t as fortunate in the fifth, as the Tigers ripped three extra-base hits and scored three runs. Jose Iglesias had an RBI double, Presley knocked him in with a triple and Castellanos added a sacrifice fly.
Perez made it 6-3 in the seventh with his 22nd homer of the season. Escobar led off the eighth with this fourth homer.
NOTES: Tigers RHP Jordan Zimmermann will miss at least one start and perhaps the rest of the season after a recurrence of a neck issue that hampered him last season. “The pain in his neck has returned and started to radiate down his right trap(ezoid),” manager Brad Ausmus said. Zimmermann received two injections to alleviate the pain last year and could get another one. He’s 1-4 with a 9.39 ERA in his last six starts. ... Detroit 1B Miguel Cabrera may not take batting practice during the series in order to rest his aching back. Cabrera is serving a six-game suspension for instigated a brawl against the New York Yankees on Aug. 24. ... The Royals have won their last six games against the Tigers. ... Kansas City is now 12-4 in day games since July.