Advertisement

Sixth-inning nightmare haunts Detroit Tigers in 8-3 loss to Kansas City Royals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Joey Wentz didn't record an out.

Wentz, a left-handed reliever, entered for the sixth inning and surrendered five of six runs to the Kansas City Royals, as the Detroit Tigers lost, 8-3, in Monday's opener of a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium.

"I didn't pitch very well tonight," said Wentz, who entered Monday's game with a 1.08 ERA in 16⅔ innings, "which is unfortunate because it would have been a night where pitching well would have helped our team a lot. I wasn't getting ahead of anybody, and they were definitely on me."

The Royals teed off on Wentz's fastball.

"I mean, they were on everything," manager A.J. Hinch said. "He lost the 10-pitch at-bat with Salvy, which was a good battle. Salvy hits the homer, and then after that, they didn't miss a thing."

Tigers pitcher Joey Wentz pitches during the sixth inning against the Royals of the Tigers' 8-3 loss on Monday, May 20, 2024, in Kansas City, Missouri.
Tigers pitcher Joey Wentz pitches during the sixth inning against the Royals of the Tigers' 8-3 loss on Monday, May 20, 2024, in Kansas City, Missouri.

ACE VS. ACE: Tarik Skubal, Cole Ragans have 'nothing but respect' for each other ahead of first matchup

The Tigers dropped to 23-24, falling below a .500 record for the second time this season, while the Royals improved to 30-19. It's only late May, but the Tigers are slipping in the American League Central and now trail the first-place Cleveland Guardians, at 31-17, by 7½ games.

Right-handed reliever Will Vest replaced Wentz and surrendered the sixth run in the sixth inning, but he recorded all three outs and stranded a runner on third base with a strikeout.

The damage in the sixth began with Salvador Perez crushing Wentz's 10th-pitch fastball at the bottom of the strike zone, increasing the Royals' lead to 3-1.

Wentz fell behind 3-0 in the count to Perez, then battled back for a full count, but Perez returned the favor by fouling four pitches in a row to extend the at-bat long enough to find a pitch to hit in his hot zone.

"He's a tough out, always has been," catcher Jake Rogers said. "He's been around forever. That's he's known for. He battled off some great cutters down, battled off a heater and then got the heater he needed to hit and did what he's supposed to."

Perez hit the ball 436 feet to left-center field with a 109.1 mph exit velocity.

The next four batters got hits off Wentz, as well: Michael Massey (double), Freddy Fermin (RBI single), MJ Melendez (single) and Hunter Renfroe (two-RBI double). The first three hits — Perez, Massey, Fermin — were on fastballs.

Wentz left a runner on third base and no outs for Vest.

Tigers left fielder Riley Greene makes a leaping catch at the wall during the sixth inning against the Royals of the Tigers' 8-3 loss on Monday, May 20, 2024, in Kansas City, Missouri.
Tigers left fielder Riley Greene makes a leaping catch at the wall during the sixth inning against the Royals of the Tigers' 8-3 loss on Monday, May 20, 2024, in Kansas City, Missouri.

Maikel Garcia pushed the Royals' lead to 7-1 with a single and Vinnie Pasquantino extended it to 8-1 with a sacrifice fly. Vest escaped further damage by striking out Perez to end the sixth inning.

"Probably the outcome is different if I go in and do my job, which I didn't," Wentz said. "I don't think you let it deter you. I think you come back tomorrow, try to get better and move on."

[ MUST LISTEN: Make "Days of Roar" your go-to Detroit Tigers podcast, available anywhere you listen to podcasts (Apple, Spotify) ]

The Royals scored their first two runs off right-hander Reese Olson, who exited in the third inning with a right hip contusion after throwing 52 pitches. A comebacker from Massey — which led to the Royals' second run because Rogers threw the ball away — drilled Olson in the hip and forced his departure, but he is expected to make his next start.

Massey also hit Olson's fastball for a solo home run in the second inning for a 1-0 lead. The long ball snapped Olson's streak of 54 innings without allowing a home run.

Colt Keith's three hits not enough

The bullpen blew up, but rookie second baseman Colt Keith continued to build upon his recent success at the plate. He had four hits in Friday's series opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and in Monday's opener against the Royals, the 22-year-old collected three hits in four plate appearances.

He had two singles and one double.

"I'm starting to hit balls hard in the air," Keith said. "As soon as I get to that point, I'm able to start to let it loose on fastballs, get on time every time and do some damage."

THE KID CAN PLAY: Tigers' Wenceel Pérez is proving it's possible for rookies to hit in big leagues

In the seventh inning, Keith pulled a fastball from right-hander Michael Wacha on the ground and into right field for an RBI double, cutting the Tigers' deficit to 8-2.

Keith hit a fastball to right field for a leadoff single in the third inning and a changeup to right field for a leadoff single in the fifth inning. He hit those balls with a 109.4 mph exit velocity and a 108.4 mph exit velocity, respectively.

In his past 10 games, Keith is hitting .406 (13-for-32) with one walk and four strikeouts in 32 plate appearances. Seven of those 13 hits, though, occurred in two of the 10 games.

"Keep on being on time," Keith said. "Just keep on continuing the process that me and my hitting coaches put together with my swing, with my swing, my toe tap and my timing. We'll go from there."

Tigers right fielder Kerry Carpenter celebrates his home run with teammates in the dugout during the fourth inning against the Royals on Monday, May 20, 2024, in Kansas City, Missouri.
Tigers right fielder Kerry Carpenter celebrates his home run with teammates in the dugout during the fourth inning against the Royals on Monday, May 20, 2024, in Kansas City, Missouri.

The Tigers scored their first run in the fourth inning on Kerry Carpenter's 430-foot solo home run to left-center field off Wacha's fastball. Carpenter also drove in the Tigers' third and final run, making it 8-3, with a long sacrifice fly in the eighth inning.

"He just missed another one with the bases loaded, which would have changed the whole complexion of the game," Hinch said. "We'll take the sac fly. It was a quality at-bat, but it looks like he's driving the ball. He's getting a lot of pitches, and he's not missing them."

Spencer Torkelson grounded out to strand the bases loaded in the eighth inning. He worked a full count against right-handed reliever Chris Stratton but bounced a sixth-pitch changeup to second base for an easy out.

Javier Báez returns to old habits

Veteran shortstop Javier Báez, carrying a .203 batting average this season, looked like he was in his prime as he raked throughout the weekend series against the Diamondbacks, hitting .615 (8-for-13) with four doubles and seven RBIs in three games.

He wasn't the same player in the series opener in Kansas City, finishing 0-for-4 with four groundouts.

JEFF SEIDEL: Why Detroit is gonna love Tigers prospect Kevin McGonigle: First and foremost, he can hit

Báez grounded into double plays in the third and fifth innings, immediately after Keith's singles. He also grounded out to end the seventh inning, following Keith's double. He added another groundout in the ninth inning.

Wacha, who started for the Royals, allowed two runs on six hits and one walk with three strikeouts, throwing 89 pitches. He relied heavily his changeup and fastball.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him @EvanPetzold.

Listen to our weekly Tigers show "Days of Roar" every Monday afternoon on demand at freep.com, AppleSpotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. And catch all of our podcasts and daily voice briefing at freep.com/podcasts.

Next up: Royals

Matchup: Tigers (23-24) at Kansas City (30-19).

First pitch: 7:40 p.m. Tuesday; Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri.

TV/radio: Bally Sports Detroit; WXYT-FM (97.1).

Probable pitchers: Tigers — RHP Casey Mize (1-2, 3.50 ERA); Royals — RHP Alec Marsh (3-1, 2.43).

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers' sixth inning costs them in 8-3 loss to K.C. Royals