Royals shut out Detroit 5-0 to drop the Tigers 4 1/2 games behind Cleveland

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP)—Jim Leyland figures an inspirational speech is the last thing his struggling Detroit Tigers need.

More than anything, after getting shut out by Kansas City 5-0 on Wednesday night, the Tigers could use a strong performance on Thursday by Jeremy Bonderman to avoid a three-game sweep in a stadium where they were on a 14-1 tear just two days earlier.

“Now is not the time for a rah-rah speech,” Leyland said after seeing his club fall 4 1/2 games behind Cleveland in the AL Central.

“This is a big man’s game. These guys know what they need to do. When nobody’s on, we get a hit. We get somebody on and we can’t get a hit. Two days ago we scored 16 runs. It’s a tough game to explain.”

Esteban German hit a go-ahead triple in a five-run first inning against rookie Andrew Miller and the Royals used four pitchers to hand the Tigers their second shutout of the year.

The 4 1/2 -game deficit matches the largest of the season for the defending AL champions. Detroit was also that far out after play on June 1.

“I don’t worry so much about Cleveland,” Leyland said. “We can make up four or five games in a hurry, but not if we’re playing the way we’re playing, pitching the way we’re pitching. We’ve just got to keep battling, and we will.”

Miller (5-5) got only two outs in his 13th major league start, allowing five runs, five hits, two walks and two hit batters as Detroit has lost eight of its last 12 games. The left-hander could not readily recall a worse outing at any level.

“I’m sure I’ve had some bad ones,” he said. “I’ve never had any that are probably this bad and in this important a situation. It hurts.”

A big problem was a missing slider, he said.

“I kept putting guys on base and kept giving them more and more opportunities. And you do that, you change the defense and open up holes. And they capitalized,” he added in a soft voice.

Zack Greinke pitched four shutout innings in his second strong start since rejoining the rotation on Aug. 24. On a strict pitch count, the right-hander allowed six hits, struck out seven and walked one.

“Very good. Better than the first (start),” said manager Buddy Bell. “I thought he was real good the first time. I thought tonight he was even better. His command was better.”

Rookie Ryan Braun (2-0) pitched 2 2-3 innings of two-hit relief for his second major league win. David Riske pitched the final 2 1-3 innings and got his fourth save in seven chances, his first since May 16.

Miller, the sixth overall pick in the 2006 amateur draft, began the game by hitting leadoff batter David DeJesus, giving the Royals a team-record 77 hit batters. It was also the 17th time DeJesus has been plunked, leaving him one short of the team’s season mark.

After German’s RBI triple, the Royals loaded the bases on Mark Grudzielanek’s RBI single, another hit batter and Emil Brown’s single.

Still with no one out, Alex Gordon grounded an RBI single into right field, and Tony Pena Jr. made it 5-0 with a two-run single into almost the same spot.

No. 8 hitter Joey Gathright fanned for the first out and catcher Ivan Rodriguez turned it into a double play by throwing out Gordon carelessly straying off second. After Miller walked Jason LaRue and DeJesus, Zach Miner came out of the bullpen and ended the inning with a forceout.

Detroit loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh but Riske came on and retired Placido Polanco on his first pitch, getting a flyout.

Miller may come out of the rotation, Leyland said.

“We’re going to hash that over after you guys leave,” he said, referring to the media. “We’re going to talk out what is best for him. It’s pretty intense up here this time of year. We don’t want to do something foolish.”

Notes

Detroit lost 3-0 to the New York Mets on June 8. … When the Royals beat Detroit 6-3 Tuesday night despite getting outhit 16-6, it was the first time a team had 10 more hits than its opponent but lost a nine-inning game since Detroit beat Anaheim 4-3 on May 17, 1998 (four hits to the Angels’ 14). The Royals had never done it. … LHP Kenny Rogers is expected to throw a three-inning simulated game on Friday in Oakland. … With 31 games left, the Royals need only four more victories to snap a streak of three straight 100-loss years.

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