Wells struggles as Royals drop finale
Reliever falters in eighth, surrenders game-winning double
DETROIT -- Things got a little too wild for the Royals on Sunday.
The Detroit Tigers took advantage of reliever Kip Wells' control lapse and surged to a 4-2 victory over the Royals as 39,782 sun-splashed fans converged on Comerica Park.
Wells, who relieved Royals starter Gil Meche with the score 2-2, had immediate control problems. He opened the eighth inning by plunking pinch-hitter Brandon Inge, and then he walked Curtis Granderson.
For a moment, the Royals caught a break. Placido Polanco's bunt was pounced upon by catcher Miguel Olivo and his throw to Tony Pena Jr., covering third base, netted a forceout. In the opinion of umpire Kevin Causey, that is -- not that of Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who argued the call so forcefully that he was ejected from the game.
Then Wells walked Magglio Ordonez to load the bases.
"I just didn't locate pitches, and then I wasn't aggressive enough in the strike zone, like you have to be in a situation like that, a tie game," Wells said.
Ramon Ramirez, who was summoned to replace Wells, ran the count to 3-2 against Miguel Cabrera. The Detroit first baseman then drilled a sharp grounder past third base for a two-run double, giving the Tigers a 4-2 lead.
"It got to 3-2, and I threw him a fastball in the middle," Ramirez said. "It was a good pitch. I didn't want to walk him."
Ramirez got a second out as first baseman Ross Gload snagged Matt Joyce's hot shot. Gary Sheffield walked to again load the bases, but Ramirez fanned Jeff Larish.
Cabrera, who had a two-run homer off Meche in the sixth, wound up with all four Tigers RBIs.
Armando Galarraga, a rookie right-hander riding a personal five-game winning streak, had beaten the Royals the only other time he faced them. On July 23, he had a perfect game going through six innings before David DeJesus singled to start the seventh. In the end, he allowed them just one run in seven innings of a 7-1 win.
This time, Galarraga was angry with himself, as the Royals took a 1-0 lead in the third inning. None other than DeJesus tripled into the right-field corner, but Galarraga got two outs and DeJesus couldn't budge. But then Galarraga buried a pitch in the dirt, the ball skipped away and DeJesus skittered home without a play.
Galarraga wasn't happy, either, when Jose Guillen hammered his first pitch of the sixth inning into the left-field seats. It was Guillen's 18th home run and it was a no-doubter, sailing well over the bullpen and landing 405 feet from the plate.
Meche, a hot pitcher himself, had won four of his last five decisions. And he always seems at home when he takes the mound at Comerica Park. In his 10 previous starts here, he was 4-1 with an efficient ERA of 3.47.
Meche reeled through five shutout innings, but in the sixth, his sunny afternoon was clouded by Cabrera. His two-out drive over the right-field wall followed Polanco's single and gave the Tigers a 2-2 tie.
"The pitch was on the corner, a little bit up, and he's so strong that he just hit it out of the park," Meche said.
It was Cabrera's 29th homer.
"When you hear that sound, you pretty much know what the result is," Meche said.
Neither starting pitcher earned a decision; each left after seven innings with the score tied. Galarraga notched seven strikeouts; Meche had six.
When the bullpens took over, the Tigers had the winning combination. Gary Glover, who got the win, and Fernando Rodney, who got a save, each pitched a scoreless inning. Wells and Ramirez had no such luck.
"Kip had been showing better control than Ramirez had in recent outings," Royals manager Trey Hillman said, "but it didn't work out that way."
The other bit of bad news was that rookie shortstop Mike Aviles left the game after a pitch struck him in the seventh inning. X-rays were negative, but he suffered a contusion of the right index finger. Whether or not he'll be ready for the Royals' next game on Tuesday night against Oakland was open to question.
The Royals finished August with a forgettable 7-20 record, and Hillman was looking forward to September.
"August hasn't been good at all," the skipper said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.