DETROIT (AP) — This time it was an unlucky hop that sent the Detroit Tigers toward another loss.
Alex Gordon’s soft grounder up the middle bounced off second base to bring home an early run, and the Tigers went on to lose 2-1 on Wednesday to the Kansas City Royals. Drew Smyly pitched well for Detroit, but he couldn’t prevent the team’s 20th loss in 29 games.
“The way we are going right now, I wasn’t even surprised that the ball hit the base,” Smyly said. “You can’t just sit here and cry. You have to keep playing. Everyone is fed up, but we have to go out there and do our best.”
The Royals won their 10th straight game, extending their best streak in 20 years. Kansas City has not won this many games in a row since a run of 14 in 1994. The Royals pushed their AL Central lead over the Tigers to 1 1/2 games.
Jeremy Guthrie (4-6) allowed four hits and struck out nine in 6 2-3 innings. Smyly (3-6) nearly matched him, but the Detroit left-hander was victimized by Gordon’s fluky RBI single in the first and a solo homer by Omar Infante in the fifth.
During his postgame news conference, Detroit manager Brad Ausmus replied sarcastically to a question about how his mood is when he heads home after these tough defeats.
“I beat my wife,” Ausmus said, clearly trying to joke. “I’m just kidding around. No, luckily my wife and kids are fantastic. I do get a little mopey at home, but my wife and kids are good.”
About a minute later, without being prompted, Ausmus said he was sorry.
“I didn’t want to make light of battered women,” the first-year manager said. “I didn’t mean to make light of that, so I apologize for that if that offended anyone.”
J.D. Martinez homered for the Tigers in the seventh, but the Kansas City bullpen got the last seven outs, with Greg Holland pitching the ninth for his 21st save in 22 chances.
Kansas City will try for a four-game sweep of the Tigers on Thursday. The Royals began the series by pounding star right-handers Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, then Guthrie took the mound and breezed through the team that has won the last three division titles.
“This could be the best game he’s thrown all year,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. “He was fabulous. ... We had to go back to our old way of doing things — pitching and defense.”
It was Guthrie’s second straight game with nine strikeouts — he also reached the mark June 13 against the Chicago White Sox. He had some help Wednesday from his fielders, as Gordon saved a run in the fourth with a diving catch in left-center.
Fortune seemed to favor the Royals throughout the afternoon. With a runner on second in the first, Gordon’s two-out bouncer up the middle looked like a groundout to the shortstop, but it ricocheted off second base for a hit, allowing Eric Hosmer to come home.
“That was the first inning so we had plenty of time to recover from it,” Ausmus said. “That being said, that’s the difference between a team that’s 9-20 and a team that’s won, what have they won, 10 in a row? Sometimes you need something like that for those things to happen.”
In the second, Detroit’s Victor Martinez dropped a nice bunt against a shifted defense, only to have the ball roll foul inches before reaching third base.
J.D. Martinez homered in the seventh, and Nick Castellanos nearly tied it later in the inning with a two-out drive to left that bounced off the fence for a double. Kelvin Herrera relieved Guthrie and retired Don Kelly on a lineout to center.
Wade Davis struck out the side in the eighth, and Holland made it through the ninth after allowing a leadoff single to Miguel Cabrera.
Smyly allowed two runs and seven hits in seven-plus innings. He struck out six without a walk.
NOTES: Kansas City OF Nori Aoki (groin) and Detroit OF Torii Hunter (hamstring) did not play. ... Royals C Salvador Perez extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a ninth-inning single. ... Detroit 2B Ian Kinsler made a nice diving stop on Infante’s grounder in the third. ... Kansas City LHP Danny Duffy (4-5) faces Detroit RHP Anibal Sanchez (3-2) on Thursday.