KANSAS CITY, MO. -- Two years ago, Nick Castellanos burst on the baseball world here on the Royals' home field. In the Futures Game -- the minor league All-Star Game played in conjunction with the big-league All-Star Game -- Castellanos had three hits, including a long three-run homer. He was named the game's MVP.
On Saturday night, Castellanos showed he is capable of taking over a major league game. The rookie third baseman drove in all three of the game's runs in the first eight innings, and then the Tigers scored six runs in the ninth for a 9-2 victory. Just as with his Futures Game homer, Castellanos had the game's biggest hit, and it was an extra-base drive to the opposite field in the sixth inning -- in this case, a two-out, two-run double in the sixth that hiked the lead from 1-0 to 3-0.
With his third three-RBI game of the season, Castellanos is tied with Miguel Cabrera for the team lead in RBIs with 17.
Left-hander Drew Smyly has shown before he can take over a big-league game on the mound. He did so again this night. Helped by tremendous run-saving catches by Torii Hunter and Austin Jackson, Smyly blanked the low-scoring Royals on two hits over seven innings. Kansas City has scored fewer runs than any American League team except Houston, and it's last in the majors in homers.
"Smyly was outstanding," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He'd had nine days (rest). Pitch count really wasn't a factor -- I just decided he'd done his job." Smyly exited at the 93-pitch mark.
Hunter made his catch on Alcides Escobar in the right-center gap to end the second with a runner on second. He left his feet and backhanded the ball. "When the ball was hit, I didn't think there was a chance it would get caught," Ausmus said. "And then Spider-Man made a reappearance."
Jackson dashed to the track to haul in Alex Gordon's drive to end the fourth with a runner on third.
The Tigers have won four straight, all in Chicago and Kansas City, and in all four games, they've received a quality start. Justin Verlander tries to give them the three-game sweep this afternoon.
The Tigers got their first run because of an improbable combination: Cabrera, who is not fast, scored from third base standing up on a liner that Gordon caught in short leftfield. Gordon has thrown out more runners than any big-league outfielder over the last four seasons, but his throw home to try to get Cabrera was off-line.
Castellanos' double in the sixth was a liner to right off hard-throwing Kelvin Herrera. It was just out of the reach of rightfielder Nori Aoki.
On the last two nights, the Tigers have dominated the middle innings here in Middle America. On Friday night, Rick Porcello retired 12 straight from the fourth through the seventh. On Saturday, Smyly and Joba Chamberlain guarded the 3-0 lead by holding the Royals hitless from the sixth through the eighth.
As the bottom of the fifth inning arrived, there had been four hits in the game, and Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler had two of them. But both times, he made the third out on the bases -- once picked off at first, once trying to go to third as the Royals mishandled his two-out double.
But by night's end, those outs were literally footnotes.
(c)2014 Detroit Free Press
Visit the Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services