J-Gutted: Eight-hit third fulfills Tigers plan against Guthrie
The Tigers had the same game plan that every other team has against the Royals: Get to the starting pitcher, before the vaunted KC bullpen can get a chance to protect a lead.
“We know that coming in. We’ve gotta jump on them,” Andrew Romine said.
They found their opportunity when Jeremy Guthrie left pitches in the strike zone. Once they adapted their plan at the plate, they strung together at-bats and hits that put up a six-run third inning and knocked Guthrie out of the game.
“I think it was good at-bats from the get-go. Guys were aggressive in the strike zone,” Brad Ausmus said. “They weren’t chasing a lot of pitches out of the zone. Last time Guthrie pitched here against us he pitched outstanding. Luckily today, we had better at bats and were able to get to him.”
Guthrie’s previous two meetings against the Tigers this year fell on opposite extremes. His June 18 visit to Comerica Park saw him tie a season high with nine strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball, allowing the Royals to pull out a 2-1 win and a third straight victory over the Tigers in Detroit.
The July 10 rematch at Kauffman Stadium saw the Tigers score three runs in the opening inning, two more in the fourth, then eight straight hits (two off Guthrie before he exited) in an eight-run fifth. Guthrie was charged with eight runs on eight hits in four-plus innings, walking three and striking out just two.
Monday, especially the third inning, was more like the latter.
“It kind of seemed he was leaving a couple pitches up,” Romine said. “Guys were taking advantage of it. Obviously that carries over to the next guy, if you’re paying attention: Lay off some of those bad pitches and eventually he’ll leave one up. It seemed like everybody was taking that approach. At this level, that’s just watching a couple pitches.”
By the third inning, they didn’t take many. The eight-hit outburst took just 27 pitches over a 10-batter stretch. Just three hitters reached a two-strike count, and just two pitches resulted in a swing and miss.
None of the hits was especially crushed. They didn’t have to be. Torii Hunter singled deep into the hole at short. Miguel Cabrera pulled a line drive into left. Victor Martinez smacked a ground ball off a diving Eric Hosmer near first base.
J.D. Martinez hit into an out at second base, but Omar Infante couldn’t turn it into a double play.
The next three hits all were pulled inside the foul lines for doubles: Don Kelly inside first base, Nick Castellanos past Mike Moustakas and down the left-field line, then Alex Avila back inside first base and down the right-field line.
“Guthrie when he pitched here before, earlier in the season, he pitched really well. … We didn’t do much off him,” Kelly said. “So to get to him early today, get some balls up in the zone, be able to hit some extra-base hits, score some runs, was key.”
Romine hit an easy ground ball through the left side. Ian Kinsler finally broke the string by popping out on the first pitch. With two outs and the end in sight, Hunter lined a single into left to score Avila and build an 8-2 lead.
“Guthrie’s one of those guys that has that ability to make a big pitch,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “He was one pitch from getting out of that third inning but it just kind of snowballed on him. He couldn’t get that pitch where somebody would hit on the ground and we could turn two.”
Guthrie’s summary of the inning was fairly simple.
“Probably too many hittable pitches,” he said. “That’d be my guess.”