DETROIT — Yuniesky Betancourt almost hit a go-ahead, three-run homer in the ninth inning for the Kansas City Royals against the Detroit Tigers.
Comerica Park was too big, though, and Austin Jackson too fast.
The Royals scored three runs in the final inning in an 8-7 loss to Detroit.
Betancourt’s drive to left-center was tracked down near the wall by Jackson and then the center fielder charged to make an underhanded catch on Mike Moustakas sacrifice fly for the second out before Jeff Francoeur struck out to end Kanas City’s comeback chances.
At worse, Royals manager Ned Yost thought Betancourt’s blast would land in the gap.
“But Austin Jackson is just a phenomenal center fielder, and he ran it down,” Yost said. “I didn’t think he was going to get Moose’s ball — I didn’t think it was hit hard enough — but he got that one as well.”
Prince Fielder hit a two-run, game-tying homer in the first and Delmon Young had a two-run homer to pad the lead in the seventh inning off Nathan Adcock.
“I knew that if I could keep us in the game we had a chance, but I made one mistake,” Adcock said. “The guys played great defense behind me. There’s a lot of fight in this club, and we kept going. We’re going to get there soon.”
The Royals have lost seven of nine with one game left before hosting the All-Star game on Tuesday night.
Detroit closer Jose Valverde started the ninth with a four-run lead and almost lost it.
Valverde walked Alex Gordon on four pitches to lead off the inning, gave up a double to Alcides Escobar and walked Eric Hosmer to load the bases. All-Star Billy Butler hit a two-run single to pull Kansas City within two runs and Moustakas’ fly made it 8-7.
The Royals were forced to play from behind for much of the game because starter Bruce Chen struggled for the second straight game.
Chen (7-8) gave up six runs for the second game in a row and allowed nine hits over 3 1-3 innings.
“Bruce just never got locked in,” Yost said. “And while we’ve been really good with our long guys this year, Nate just hung one breaking ball. Other than that, he was fantastic.”
The Royals took a 2-0 lead in the first after Butler and Betancourt’s RBI singles, but couldn’t keep it. Jackson hit a leadoff single in the home half and scored on Fielder’s 14th homer, a 382-foot shot to right center with two outs to make it 2-all.
Gerald Laird had an RBI double and Jackson, who extended his career long hitting streak to 14 games, had an RBI single in a three-run second that put the Tigers up 5-2.
Miguel Cabrera’s sacrifice fly in the fourth gave Detroit a four-run lead.
Fister gave up two runs in the first, then pitched three scoreless innings before giving up Moustakas’ two-out homer in the fifth to let Kansas City pull within three runs. Betancourt’s sacrifice fly in the seventh off Villarreal cut Detroit’s lead to two.
Young’s two-out shot gave him his first three-game homer streak and put the Tigers ahead 8-4 in the seventh and they needed the big cushion to hold on for the win.
Doug Fister (2-6) gave up four runs in six-plus innings and snapped a three-game losing streak. Fister, Darin Downs, Brayan Villarreal and Phil Coke combined to pitch a scoreless seventh. Joaquin Benoit struck out two in the eighth and Valverde pitched a very shaky ninth inning.
Detroit has a winning record for the first time since May 10. The Tigers have a four-game winning streak that matches their longest of the season.
“It was just a matter of time,” Young said. “We’re too good of a team to struggle. We just need to win one more game to go into the break on a roll.”
NOTES: The Royals claimed C Adam Moore on waivers from the Seattle Mariners and optioned him to Triple-A Omaha on Saturday. … Detroit has a four-game winning streak for the third time this season.
– Associated Press –