Kansas City, Mo. — The story line Sunday very suddenly turned from a debate on an official scorer’s decision to whether the Tigers squandered a fatal dose of scoring chances.
The former was rendered irrelevant and the latter turned out to be true. Carlos Santana hit a two-run walk-off home run off Michael Fulmer to send the Royals to a series-winning, 3-2 win.
To that point, Tigers rookie right-hander Casey Mize was the central figure in this one. He posted his fifth straight quality start and going into the seventh had allowed just one very questionable single, that to Salvador Perez in the fourth inning.
But that scoring decision became moot in the seventh inning when Andrew Benintendi and Perez hit legitimate singles off Mize and chased him from the game.
Lefty Gregory Soto entered with runners at first and third and one out and promptly threw a wild pitch that allowed Perez to get to second. Pinch-hitter Hanser Alberto lifted a 3-2 pitch to medium depth right field. Benintendi tagged scored easily from third.
But the Tigers, on a strong relay from Robbie Grossman to Miguel Cabrera to Jeimer Candelario, gunned down Kelvin Gutierrez trying to advance to third. Gutierrez beat the throw but third-base umpire Lance Barrett ruled his hand had come off the bag.
Replays didn’t support that but the Royals had used up all their challenges and the play couldn’t be reviewed.
Mize was in complete control through six. He had command of all five of his pitches, especially his slider. The Royals took 11 swings at it and missed on six.
About that first hit. Mize had walked Benintendi with two outs. That was the first runner against him. Perez hit a chopper to shortstop Niko Goodrum. The ball wasn’t hit hard (78-mph exit velocity) but it had a lot of top spin on it. Goodrum stabbed at it but it hit off his glove and went into left field.
According to Statcast, the expected batting average on it was .370. The Tigers asked official scorer Max Utsler to review the call. He did and stuck with it.
Catcher Jake Rogers rendered it inconsequential. He pounced on a ball that had bounced a few feet to his right and threw a seed to third base to nail Benintendi trying to advance.
But, oh those wasted opportunities.
It looked like the Tigers were going to break this one open right out of the gate.
A double by Grossman and then singles by Candelario, Cabrera and Eric Haase had the Tigers up 2-0 with the bases loaded and only one out.
But Royals lefty starter Kris Bubic, who had shut the Tigers out over five innings at Comerica Park on May 13, regathered. He got Wilson Ramos to foul out and he struck out JaCoby Jones on three pitches.
The Tigers did nothing else against him until the fifth, when they let him wriggle off the hook again. Schoop and Candelario started the inning with singles and Cabrera, who has hit six of his last seven games, hit a bullet, 107-mph exit velocity off the bat — but it was went right to shortstop Nicky Lopez who started a fast 6-4-3 double-play.
After leaving two more runners on in the seventh, Schoop doubled to lead off the seventh and got to third with no outs on a wild pitch.
Stranded. Like seven other Tigers runners up to that point.
Schoop stayed put on a groundout by Candelario and then tried to score on a grounder by Cabrera. He was thrown out easily.
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