Royals stranded in 2-1 loss

7/12/2014

BY RUSTIN DODD

BY RUSTIN DODD

The Kansas City Star

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (MCT) — Lorenzo Cain stood near home plate, shrugging his shoulders while his eyeballs began to bulge from his head. Royals manager Ned Yost had stepped out of the dugout, moving swiftly toward home plate umpire Chad Fairchild. And for a moment, everybody at Kauffman Stadium just kind of wanted to know what was going on.

It was the bottom of the eighth here on Friday night, and Nori Aoki stood on third base after stealing second and advancing on an errant throw. The tying run was 90 feet away from home plate, and the Royals were in business.

Or maybe not.

While the play unfolded, Fairchild had called batter's inference on Cain, who had offered at the pitch and stepped in the way of Detroit catcher Bryan Holaday on his follow-through.

Now Cain was called out on batter's interference. Aoki was being sent back to first. And Yost needed an explanation.

This was the lasting image from the Royals' 2-1 loss in front of an announced crowd of 31,581 at Kauffman Stadium. It was confusing, and a little bitter. For the second straight night, the Royals, 47-45, had fallen to the division-rival Detroit Tigers, 52-37, who are now threatening to grab the AL Central by the jugular entering the All-Star break.

One night after suffering through a 16-4 slaughtering, the Royals endure a painful near miss. Even after the strange scene in the eighth, the Royals put two runners on in the ninth against Detroit closer Joe Nathan, who escaped the jam by striking out Alcides Escobar and inducing a grounder to first from Aoki.

One year ago, the Royals crashed into the All-Star Break on a five-game losing skid, including a three-game sweep at the hands of division rival Cleveland. Now they will attempt to avoid a similar fate in this season's first half.

The Royals have two more opportunities to salvage the series, beginning with James Shields taking on Rick Porcello at 6:10 p.m. today. But with Alex Gordon on the shelf for the weekend with a wrist injury, the first two nights were rather forgettable. The Royals wasted another excellent outing from left-hander starter Danny Duffy and couldn't string together hits against Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez.

Also of note: No power.

For years, of course, Sanchez has owned the Royals, dominating an overmatched lineup in his usual understated style. In a rotation with Cy Young winners Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, Sanchez's proclivity for excellence can sometimes be overlooked.

He led the American League with a 2.57 ERA last season, and entering Friday, he'd allowed just five runs against the Royals in 43 1/3 innings over six starts. That calculates to a 1.04 ERA, in case you were wondering.

Before the batter's inference call wrecked the scoring chance in the eighth, the Royals missed a golden opportunity in the seventh when Mike Moustakas opened the inning by bashing a double to left-center. Moustakas moveed to third on a groundout from Omar Infante. But shortstop Eugenio Suarez, playing near the infield grass, saved a run with a web-gem scoop on a sharp grounder from Jarrod Dyson.

The Tigers, meanwhile, picked their spots against Duffy, who had to labor through the early innings against the Tigers. The Tigers took an early 1-0 lead in the first after Austin Jackson mashed a double to center on the first pitch of the game and second baseman Ian Kinsler followed with an RBI single.

Duffy then partially gifted a run in the top of the third. With runners on first and second and one out, Duffy threw wildly on a pickoff play at second. The ball wound up in center field, and the runners advanced to second and third. Miguel Cabrera followed with a sac-fly — giving Detroit a 2-1 lead — before Duffy struck out J.D. Martinez to end the inning.

Duffy screamed into his glove in frustration as he walked back to the dugout. But Duffy would make amends, holding Detroit in check through the sixth.

The Royals' lone run had come in the bottom of the first.

First baseman Eric Hosmer doubled with two outs, and Salvador Perez plated him with an RBI single.

And then came the zeros and missed opportunities. Dyson lined into a double play to end the second. Perez was picked off first to end the fourth. And Cain was left standing near the plate in the eighth, another rally snuffed out.

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