Finally, a payoff: Royals come back late to beat Tigers

Sam McDowell, The Kansas City Star on

Published in Baseball

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The carousel on the mound moved through right-handers Brad Keller, Glenn Sparkman and ultimately Jakob Junis. Over a three-day stretch, they each approached season-long outings -- starts that, at minimum, kept the Royals in the game.

Finally, after 26 long innings, they found a payoff.

The Royals scored a pair of runs in the eighth inning Tuesday, the impetus for a 3-2 comeback victory against the Tigers to open a three-game series in front of 20,776 at Kauffman Stadium.

After a three-day scoring drought, Terrance Gore scored the game-winning run amidst a light rain when a Cheslor Cuthbert popup went unattended in right field. Gore had stolen third base and acrobatically refrained from slipping off the bag. One batter earlier, Jorge Soler tied the game with a double to score Adalberto Mondesi, who had a three-hit day.

Ian Kennedy pitched a perfect ninth inning for the save. Scott Barlow recorded the win.

The Tigers offered the Royals their opening -- perhaps even a favor -- in removing starter Spencer Turnbull after six shutout innings requiring 96 pitches. And sure enough, first baseman Ryan O'Hearn welcomed Blaine Hardy, the first man to emerge from the Tigers bullpen, with a 439-foot bomb to the second deck of the fountains in right field. Prior to the blast, Kansas City (21-45) had scored two runs in its previous 25 innings. It added runs against Daniel Stumpf and Victor Alcantara in the eighth.

That left Junis with a no-decision, though he earned more. He threw seven innings, giving up just five hits. He pounded the strike zone with 63 of them over his 89-pitch tour through the Tigers lineup. He struck out five and walked none, undone only by the nemesis over his three-year career.

The home run.

Right fielder Nicholas Castellanos popped him early, a 427-foot blast into the left center field seats. Junis has allowed 13 first-inning runs in 14 starts. Three innings later, Brandon Dixon hit a ball to a nearly-identical location. With some added distance. His solo shot, the 14th homer against Junis this season, splashed the fountains in left.

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The eighth inning was a reprieve from the frustrations of the initial seven. Nicky Lopez could have tied the game with a base hit in the fourth. Alex Gordon could have done the same in the fifth. Groundout. Strikeout. Four runners left in scoring position. In the initial four innings, the Royals had just two hits, both Mondesi singles.

His record not indicative of his performances this season, Turnbull has allowed three earned or fewer in 12 of his 15 starts. The latest in a growing line to shut down the Royals offense, Turnbull completed an outing unscathed for the first time in his past nine starts, dating back to late April.

The three-game series will conclude Thursday with a trip to Omaha, the two teams playing at TD Ameritrade Park as a kickoff event for the College World Series. The middle game will remain at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday.

Tigers shortstop and leadoff man Niko Goodrum left the game in the third inning after fouling a ball off his right knee. Gordon Beckham replaced him.

(c)2019 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

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