Tigers run winning streak to seven
Detroit completes sweep in KC; bats pound out 17 hits
KANSAS CITY -- Manager Jim Leyland spent Sunday morning talking about how his Tigers will move on without reliever Joel Zumaya. A two-touchdown lead Sunday afternoon was a pretty good start.
After all the Tigers played through Saturday night -- the comeback from a 4-1 deficit, the sight of Zumaya walking out of the bullpen and into the dugout wincing in pain -- they could use an easy day. Even with a seven-game winning streak and an offense that is finally cranking out runs with regularity, Sunday's 13-4 win over the Royals had a feeling of a remedy for them.
They'll undoubtedly miss Zumaya, probably in their next close game. But considering they didn't have to so much as take the tarp off the bullpen mound until the eighth inning on a rainy afternoon, they didn't have to miss him Sunday.
With season highs in runs, hits, home runs and margin of victory, they didn't miss much of anything, especially pitches.
"I think the rain actually ended up helping us a little bit," said Curtis Granderson, who along with Craig Monroe fell a hit short of the cycle. "We were waiting around to see what time it is. Now it's time to go, and you can't really think about much else. We haven't done much work, but we still have a lot of energy left to hopefully complete nine innings."
No Tiger might've benefited more from the rain than starting pitcher Chad Durbin, who didn't have much to think about except trying to get outs quickly. He was knocked out of his last start on Tuesday in the fourth inning with six walks and less than half of his pitches thrown for strikes. He already came in looking to keep the ball around the strike zone. Yet when injured starter Kenny Rogers pointed to the Kauffman Stadium grounds crew waiting beside the infield tarp between innings, that brought home the point.
Local weather radar Sunday morning showed a window of playable weather in between heavy rain cells. The game had to go five innings to become an official result if rain ended play. Once a trio of two-run home runs pulled Detroit ahead in the second, Durbin's goal was to get through those five innings as quickly as possible.
"My best pitch today was a strike," Durbin summarized. "That's what was working for me today."
Durbin fired away with them once he was up, and the Royals obliged by swinging early. He faced one batter over the minimum through seven innings, having allowed singles to Ross Gload in the second inning and Mark Grudzielanek leading off the fourth before retiring 11 straight.
Even in the seventh, once an official game was assured, Durbin (2-1) was thinking outs.
"In the seventh, we went out and a bunch of guys had hits and runs," Durbin said. "I was thinking with the rain coming, I need to get three outs so their stats count that inning, too."
Neifi Perez, for one, can be glad he did.
Though Perez hasn't been a Royal since 2002, five years and three teams ago, he still received a decent amount of boos from the announced crowd of 17,034 to brave the elements when he stepped to the plate for his first at-bat. The game was out of hand by the time he had his hits, but he nonetheless made them count.
After back-to-back doubles from Sean Casey and Monroe led off the seventh, Perez hit a one-out double down the third-base line to boost the lead to 9-0. An inning later, he finished off the scoring by lofting a Neal Musser curveball into the left-field seats for a three-run home run, his first homer since joining the Tigers last August.
"The manager can use me for a lot of different reasons -- to bunt, to get a guy over, whatever they want," Perez said. "I've never been the greatest hitter, but sometimes I have good luck like today. When I'm hitting right-handed, it is different."
All of the damage off Royals starter Zack Greinke (1-4) came in that second inning, starting with Monroe's third home run in his last five games and continuing with two-run shots from Granderson and Gary Sheffield. Nine of the next 11 Tigers were retired through the fifth before Casey's double started off Detroit's offense again.
Durbin, meanwhile, worked so quickly, so efficiently that he gave himself at least a shot at what would've been his first complete game since joining the Cleveland Indians rotation to face the Royals on July 24, 2004. He went through his first six innings in just 62 pitches on Sunday, and Leyland said later he planned on letting Durbin go the distance until he gave up three straight singles and a one-out RBI double in a two-run eighth.
"Right until the end there," Leyland said, "he was going pretty good."
Leyland attributed the eighth to fatigue. Durbin said that wasn't the case.
"I wasn't tired at all," he said. "I just left some balls up and they started swinging at them."
Finally, the Tigers had to go to their bullpen. Still, when Aquilino Lopez took the mound, he was protecting an 11-run lead, not a one-run advantage.
They'll have to face that close game late without Zumaya eventually, and probably soon -- if not this week against the Mariners, then possibly next weekend against the Twins at the Metrodome. But today, they didn't have to think about that. They just had to hit, throw strikes and stay loose.
With the weekend sweep, the Tigers are now 10-2 when Durbin or Mike Maroth starts.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.