KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The explanation for a late-season resurgence was rather simple, but the wait for it was anything but.
After hitting a wall in the middle of his sophomore season, Royals right-handed pitcher Jakob Junis landed on the disabled list. For nearly three weeks, he bid his time for a shot to reverse the narrative.
Once he returned, he returned as his old self.
The best string of Junis' young career reached a new high Tuesday — for the first time, he completed a game that he started.
Junis overwhelmed the Tigers for nine innings, earning the complete-game victory in a 6-2 result at Kauffman Stadium.
A man who prides himself on maintaining a stoic presence on the mound calmly raised his hands in the air as the final out landed in third baseman Alcides Escobar's glove in foul territory.
The 104-pitch outing provided Junis with a career first and the Royals with a season first. It was the team's first nine-inning complete game in 2018.
The final stat line: nine innings, six hits, two runs, zero walks, seven strikeouts.
He had never pitched into the ninth before Tuesday, but a low pitch count allowed Royals manager Ned Yost to offer Junis an opportunity.
He has allowed two earned runs or fewer in his past five starts.
It was a struggle beforehand. Junis lost seven straight summer starts, a slump littered with walks and home runs that seemingly had no conclusion.
The only break from the stretch came in the trip to the disabled list, lower back inflammation the culprit. That put a 19-day interval between starts. But while the previous month stewed, it also allowed Junis an opportunity to step back and examine the root of his struggles.
Two items popped up on the stat sheet: walks and home runs.
Junis had his command Tuesday. He walked none. He threw only 36 balls to 32 hitters. The home run bit him just once — a solo shot from JaCoby Jones in the eighth inning that outlasted the stretch of left fielder Alex Gordon.
Other than that, he was on. And he has been since returning from that injury.
In his past five starts, Junis has allowed two earned runs or fewer, a stretch that lowered his earned run average from 5.12 to 4.53.
"Throwing more strikes," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "More consistent with his slider. Mechanically, he's just been throwing the ball well."
So had Detroit starter Matthew Boyd. But the Royals remained a bit of a nemesis.
Boyd had won four of his past six starts entering Tuesday, when his struggles against the Royals re-emerged. Boyd is just 3-7 against Kansas City in his career.
The bulk of the damage arrived in the fifth inning Tuesday. Royals shortstop Adalberto Mondesi provided an omen to lead off the inning — a 410-foot solo shot he skied into the front row of the left-center field seats. The ball hung in the air for 6.2 seconds, according to Statcast, allowing Mondesi to sprint halfway around the bases before it reached the stands. It was the Royals' eighth home run in their past four games.
Hunter Dozier added a two-run double in the inning, one of two doubles in the game.