The Royals won their ninth straight Tuesday night, beating up on the Detroit Tigers 11-4 at Comerica Park to take over first place in the American League Central by a half-game. The Royals, improving to 38-32, haven't seen first place 70 games into the season since 1980. Eighty. The year George Brett hit .390. Disco had just died. Kansas City hasn't made the playoffs since 1985, when it won the World Series.
''A lot of games left, so it really doesn't matter, but to say you're in first place, it feels pretty good,'' designated hitter Billy Butler said. ''Being in first place any time is good — even if it's after the first game.''
Hey, check this out:
Detroit's Max Scherzer allowed 10 runs, tying his career high, one night after Justin Verlander allowed the Royals seven — combining for the most ever for Cy Young winners in back-to-back games, STATS reports. Scherzer pitched his first career shutout in his previous start, but allowed 10 hits to K.C.
''I'm just not putting guys away with two strikes. That's my problem,'' Scherzer said. ''I've taken punches on the chin before, and I've come back. I'm not worried about that. I just have to get back to where I'm putting guys away.''
Not only are the Royals raking, but they're taking advantage of some long-overdue good luck.
They already led 10-3 in the fifth inning when right-hander Giordano Ventura threw a 100 mph wild pitch with Victor Martinez batting and the bases loaded. Fortunately for the Royals, they got the kindest bounce ever and the ball quickly came back to Perez. Meanwhile, rookie Eugenio Suarez had drifted far enough from the third base bag — checking to see if he could score — that Perez could throw a BB to Mike Moustakas in time to tag Suarez before he could get back safely.
The Tigers could never be Royals right now.
ARMS WIDE FOR TANAKA:
The Toronto Blue Jays have been the class of the AL East so far, but they're still having trouble winning at Yankee Stadium. Masahiro Tanaka helped see to Toronto's 14th consecutive loss in the Bronx by striking out 10 in a 3-1 victory for New York.
Tanaka allowed a home run to Jose Reyes on the first pitch of the game and seemed to cruise from there. He's been cruising ever since he got to the Yankees, posting a 1.99 ERA in 14 starts, never permitting more than three earned runs in any of them.
''Overall, I think my stuff wasn't really there,'' he said through a translator.
A perfectionist, eh? Well, the rest of the league had better hope Tanaka never pulls himself together.
Brett Gardner hit a two-run homer against rookie starter Marcus Stroman to give Tanaka a margin for error. The Blue Jays have dropped seven of 10 and their division lead shrunk to 3 1/2 games on the Yankees.
TROUT HOMERS TWICE FOR SECOND TIME IN CAREER:
A recent hot streak has put Los Angeles Angels slugger Mike Trout right where he was statistically during his first two full seasons in the majors: One of the best, if not the top, forces in the game. Trout hit two home runs in a 9-3 victory against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field, turning in the second multi-homer game of his career. His first homer went opposite field and gave the Angels a 5-2 lead in the fifth inning.
After a relatively slow start (that most other players would take without hesitating) Trout has reached base in 35 of 36 games. From the Associated Press:
Trout is batting .410 (34 for 83) over his last 22 games and has raised his [batting] average from .264 to .311.
''I'm being patient and squaring up some balls,'' he said. ''I'm not anxious. I'm just comfortable. I'm not trying to do too much. That's really helping.''
Trout has a .397 on-base percentage and a .610 slugging percentage for a 1.008 OPS. That would be a career high if the season ended today. (It doesn't!)
RAMIREZ HURTS HAND IN DODGERS VICTORY:
The Los Angeles Dodgers closed to within five games of the NL West division lead thanks in part to a home run by Hanley Ramirez and a grinding six innings by Zack Greinke in a 5-2 victory against the Colorado Rockies.
The bad news: Ramirez bruised the ring finger on his right hand after a hard grounder by Corey Dickerson deflected off him in the seventh inning. Ramirez also appeared to be having shoulder problems earlier in the game, and was seen getting a massage in the dugout by athletic trainer Stan Conte.
X-rays on Ramirez's throwing hand were negative.
''That's great news for us. We obviously dodged a big bullet,'' catcher A.J. Ellis said. ''Hanley's probably the biggest part of our lineup when we're going right. He carried us last year, and I feel like he's getting close to that point where he can carry us again. He's definitely one of the best bats in all of baseball, and we'll be happy to get him back whenever he's ready.''
Greinke threw a season-high 117 pitches, with the Rockies able to stay alive with foul balls on many two-strike counts.
The first-place Giants fell 8-2 at the White Sox.
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