DETROIT (AP) — Carlos Hernandez pitched five shutout innings and Whit Merrifield drove in a pair of runs as the Kansas City Royals beat the Detroit Tigers 3-1 on Friday night.
The win clinched the season series for the Royals, who lead 10-7 with two games remaining.
Hernandez allowed two hits, walked three and hit a batter, one start after allowing seven runs in four innings against the Oakland A's. Four relievers finished, with Scott Barlow pitching the ninth for his 15th save.
“I had 10 days of rest, so nothing felt right in the first inning,” Hernandez said. “But once I got past that inning, I felt really good for the rest of my start.”
Detroit's Casey Mize gave up one run on two hits in three innings in his 29th start of the season. Detroit's best young pitcher is working as an opener to reduce his innings.
“My goal at the beginning of the season was 30, so as long as nothing happens, I'll make it,” he said. “Given all the great players that have missed time last season and this one, I'm proud I was able to go out there every five, six or seven days and take the ball.”
The Tigers had their best chance against Hernandez in the first, loading the bases with two outs on a hit batter and two walks. Harold Castro lined out to right, ending the threat.
“I thought we had some really good at-bats in that inning,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “Hunter Dozier made two nice catches on line drives or this would have been a completely different game.”
The Royals made it 1-0 in the third inning on a sacrifice fly by Merrifield. The Tigers tied it on Eric Haase's RBI single off Domingo Tapia (4-0) in the sixth.
Kansas City regained the lead in the seventh against Alex Lange (0-3) when Adalberto Mondesi tripled and scored on Ryan O'Hearn's single through the drawn-in infield.
“There's a lot of luck when it comes to whether or not the balls are going to drop for you,” O'Hearn said. “If I hit that ball four feet to the left, it's right at an infielder and we're not talking right now. It's not like I can aim the ball that well.”
Niko Goodrum led off the bottom of the inning with a double, but was thrown out going for third.
“It looked to me like Niko was planning to stop at second, but Ramon (Santiago) thought he could make it and waved him to keep going,” Hinch said. “He didn't get a great jump when he tried to keep going.”
Kyle Isbel led off the eighth with another triple and scored on Merrifield's second sacrifice fly of the game.
“Isbel's gets up there and he's down 0-2 before he even gets settled in,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “But he hung in there, took a couple close pitches and found something he could hit the other way. That's a huge at-bat, just like Ryan had in the previous inning.”
Royals shortstop Nicky Lopez went 0 for 4, ending his on-base streak at 31 games.
The start of the game was delayed 11 minutes by a lengthy celebration of Miguel Cabera's 500th home run. Cabrera picked up his 2,980th hit with a single in the sixth inning . He also grounded into a pair of double plays.
The Royals placed OF Michael Taylor on the bereavement list and recalled OF Edward Oliveres from Triple-A Omaha.
Tigers reliever Joe Jimenez pitched a scoreless ninth — his first appearance since going on the COVID-19 list on Sept. 4.
“Because of the timing and the weather, we weren't able to get Joe a rehab outing, so it was great to see him go out there and pitch a nice inning,” Hinch said.
The teams continue their three-game series on Saturday. Detroit's Tarik Skubal (8-12, 4.25) will face Jonathan Heasley (0-1, 9.00) of the Royals.
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