Bloomquist delivers on promise in 12th
Ka'aihue's big day helps set up extra-innings victory
DETROIT -- It seemed hard to believe when Royals manager Ned Yost said it -- really hard to believe.
Before the game, Yost guaranteed that Willie Bloomquist would record two hits batting out of the three-hole for the first time this season.
It took Bloomquist six at-bats to justify the skipper's statement, but it couldn't have come in a sweeter fashion. Bloomquist bombed a solo home run off Tigers reliever Alfredo Figaro in the 12th inning to help the Royals avoid the sweep on Wednesday and leave Motown with a 4-3 victory in 12 innings.
"It's crazy," Bloomquist said. "[Yost] reminded me that I owed him another hit [in the eighth inning]. ... I promised two. I didn't think it was going to be one of that caliber, but I'll take it."
Arriving in the clubhouse Wednesday morning and seeing his name penciled in the three-hole was a shock in itself for Bloomquist. But he told Yost he'd come up with two hits, and the skipper had enough confidence in his utility man to guarantee the feat to the media before the game.
No one could have guessed his second hit would prove to be the game-winner. After all, he'd only hit two homers in 65 games entering Wednesday.
"Just the fact that I got to hit third today ranks pretty high up there [in career highlights]," Bloomquist said. "That was kind of cool. I've never done that before. But to be able to come through and get us a win in a key situation, it will go up there, too."
Kila Ka'aihue will go down as the unsung hero in a game where Bloomquist will likely capture the headlines.
Kansas City was trailing Detroit, 3-0, entering the seventh inning. It looked like another game in the series where one inning would spoil the Royals' chances of capturing a victory.
Not under Ka'aihue's watch. The Hawaiian native bombed a homer to right field to kick off the seventh inning after Tigers starter Armando Galarraga had retired 13 of the last 14 batters he'd faced. It marked Ka'aihue's second home run in as many days and also was only his second homer of the season.
Yost had planned on giving Ka'aihue a day off Wednesday before he hit his homer Tuesday. The skipper's decision to keep him in the lineup proved Yost had the golden touch Wednesday, even if he made everyone sweat it out.
"We hadn't scored up to that point and Galarraga threw the ball really well," Ka'aihue said. "He kept us off-balance and kept the ball down. He just made one mistake to me. I was just fortunate enough to get a good barrel on that ball and it got out of here."
But Ka'aihue wasn't done, and neither were the Royals. The first baseman lined an RBI double to right in the eighth inning off Tigers closer Jose Valverde to get Kansas City within a run before coming around to score to tie the game when Brayan Pena hit a double of his own.
Yost was impressed with what his Nos. 5 and 6 hitters -- both hitting well under .200 -- were able to do against Valverde, who blew his first save in 24 consecutive appearances. His last blown save ironically came against the Royals way back on April 7.
"There's nothing I can do," Valverde said. "As you guys see, this is the second time that Kansas City did something against me -- the [game after] Opening Day and now [when] the season's almost over. These guys do some things. I have to make adjustments."
From there, Yost used three relievers and closer Joakim Soria, who all posted zeros. Philip Humber entered in the ninth inning and threw three shutout innings with only two hits allowed to earn his first big league victory.
"I was able to throw my curveball over early in the count whenever I wanted," Humber (1-0) said. "I got a couple outs on changeups. When you are facing guys for the first time, they don't know what you have. When you can mix three pitches and get them over the plate, it makes it tough on them."
The come-from-behind victory sure was sweet, especially after the way the game started for the Royals. Detroit posted three runs in the second inning off Royals starter Sean O'Sullivan, but he settled down nicely as the game progressed, despite battling a minor case of bronchitis.
"When they scored three in the second inning, I'm thinking to myself, 'Here we go again,'" Yost said.
The three runs in the second inning were all O'Sullivan -- and the rest of the Royals' pitching staff -- would allow on the afternoon against a banging Tigers offense that had produced 40 runs in the past five games.
"That's a good hitting team over there," O'Sullivan said. "You just have to hang with them. I knew after we got out of that second inning that was all I could give up. I just tried to focus one pitch at a time and one batter at a time to figure out how to put up a zero to give our offense a chance to battle and put a couple runs across the board."
Bloomquist took care of the rest in the 12th with a no-doubter to left field after falling behind in the count and battling back to make the count full against Figaro (0-1).
"I don't hit too many, but I assumed that one was gone," Bloomquist said. "I got pretty much all of it. That's probably as far as I could probably hit one."
Alex DiFilippo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.