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Michael A. Taylor tried like heck to create a tantalizing scenario in the bottom of the ninth inning for the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night. Had he reached base, that would bring the winning run to the plate in pinch hitter Adalberto Mondesi.
At one point during his at-bat, it seemed like Taylor might keep fouling pitches off until he was simply awarded first base, just so the Detroit Tigers didn’t have to deal with him anymore.
Instead, Taylor finished a 12-pitch battle with Tigers reliever Gregory Soto by swinging at and missing a slider for the third strike to end the game with Mondesi on deck. Activated from the injured list less than an hour before the game, Mondesi hasn’t played in a game since May 31.
Taylor’s strikeout capped a 4-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers in the second game of a three-game series in front of an announced 15,947 at Kauffman Stadium.
The Royals, who trailed by three runs in the third inning, are now 9-11 in one-run games this season. They’re now six games below .500 (30-36), and have lost five in a row and 10 of 11. They’ll try to avoid a series sweep in Wednesday’s finale.
Lopez’s seventh-inning RBI single gave the Royals their lone hit with a runner in scoring position. They entered the game having gone 2 for 38 with runners in scoring position dating back to the ninth inning last Thursday in Oakland.
“I know that the way that they’re preparing and the way they’re doing their work, it is going to change,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said of the recent offensive struggles. “But right now, it’s just not happening and it’s costing us.”
Royals starting pitcher Mike Minor (5-4) gave up four runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. He didn’t walk a batter, but he offered a blunt assessment of his outing.
“I didn’t have anything really tonight,” Minor said. “They had some holes, but I couldn’t exploit them because I couldn’t locate any pitches. We threw a lot of fastballs, and I probably shook (catcher Salvador Perez) too many times, but I didn’t really have a whole lot of confidence with any of the pitches.”
Minor gave up a run in the first on a Miguel Cabrera RBI single into center field, but a double play helped him limit the damage in that inning.
In the third, the Tigers tacked on two more runs via a Jonathan Schoop homer after a Robbie Grossman single. Schoop’s 11th home run of the season gave the Tigers a 3-0 lead.
The Royals got two runs back in the bottom of the third. One came on a Carlos Santana RBI groundout with runners on second and third. The other run scored on a wild pitch that allowed Merrifield to scamper home from third base with two outs.
“I thought we did a good job of kind of fighting our way back in,” Matheny said. “First of all, limiting it to just one in the first was a big deal. That could have been a bigger inning. Getting a ground ball double play, guys making plays behind, a good turn leaves it at just one.
“Then we got a little something going. It was good to see the situational hitting, Santana getting a run in and just kind of getting some of that momentum going.”
The score remained 3-2 until the sixth inning when Minor hit a snag after two quick outs. Cabrera’s two-out double into the right-center field gap put a runner in scoring position with two down, and Eric Haase’s single to left field put Cabrera on third and marked the end of Minor’s night.
Relief pitcher Kyle Zimmer gave up an RBI single up the middle to Daz Cameron as the Tigers went up 4-2. That run was charged to Minor, who has now allowed 11 runs in his last three starts (19 2/3 innings).
“One out away from making it look like an OK start,” Minor said. “I didn’t make my pitches there. I got two guys on and obviously Zimmer is the guy to shut that down and usually he would. I know how hard that job is coming in there. So I’ve got nobody to blame, but myself for letting those guys get on.”
In the seventh inning, Jarrod Dyson doubled, then tagged up and advanced to third on a deep fly ball. With two outs and a 2-2 count, Lopez swatted a soft liner just over shortstop and into left field for an RBI single to make the score 4-3.
Scott Barlow, Jake Brentz and Greg Holland each pitched a scoreless inning of relief, but the Royals had just one baserunner in the final two innings.
“It’s human nature, trying to come through for the team and try to do the most,” Lopez said when asked about hitters pressing due to recent offensive woes. “If there’s two guys on, whether it’s first and third, it’s human nature to try to hit a ball in the gap to score two instead of one.
“But when you try to simplify stuff and say hey I’m just going to put a good swing on this ball and try to find a hole and score that guy on third — I think that’s what we kind of need to do. Just kind of simplify things. It’s easier said than done. It’s a battle when you get in the box.”