KANSAS CITY, MO. - It went from a big win to a bad loss to the Detroit Tigers’ latest best win of the season in a matter of minutes.
It went from crazy in the bottom of the seventh inning to quiet in the top of the eighth.
And it was once again Justin Upton who came up clutch for the Tigers.
After the bullpen blew another late-innings lead, Upton continued his hot hitting with a game-winning two-run home run with two outs in the eighth inning to beat the Royals, 6-5, and win a big early September series at Kauffman Stadium.
Upton took former Tiger Joakim Soria out to dead centerfield for his seventh home run in the past 14 games since getting a three-day rest to reset his down debut season in Detroit. He raised his right hand rounding first base and the Tigers had come from behind once again.
They did it this afternoon after a combination of poor play squandered a three-run lead an inning earlier. Left-hander Daniel Norris, who pitched his best start of the season, allowed the first two men to reach in the seventh inning, ending his day. Righty Alex Wilson, who has been so solid in relief as of late, then walked Salvador Perez to load the bases. Wilson allowed a run on a sacrifice fly and then retired the next man before the second game-changing blunder at first base in as many innings.
With two strikes, Miguel Cabrera erred on a Jarrod Dyson groundball down the line to tie the game. It was ruled a triple. Scoring from second base on the play was Perez, who advanced to second base on the sacrifice fly when Tyler Collins threw to third.
That mental error proved moot when Paulo Orlando followed with a double to leftfield to tie the game. It was the second time the Tigers blew a late lead in the series. On Friday night, Orlando singled home two runs in the eighth inning. The result on this day was the same.
The Tigers insured their slim lead in the seventh inning, when Andrew Romine doubled off Eric Hosmer’s back-handed attempt at first base with two outs. Collins scored, and then Romine scored on an Ian Kinsler single.
The lead wasn’t enough for Norris, or the bullpen, though.
Norris threw his best game of the season, allowing three runs on four hits over six-plus innings. He struck out seven and walked one. For the first time this season, he was in control of his pitch count and coupled it with swing-and-miss stuff.
Upton opened the game with a RBI double against righty Edinson Volquez in the second inning. Norris gave the lead back on an Alcides Escobar solo home run in the third. J.D. Martinez hit his 20th home run of the season in the fourth, a solo shot, and when Upton took the lead in the eighth, the Tigers had five players with 20 or more home runs for the first time since 1997.
Francisco Rodriguez picked up his 38th save in the ninth inning, dancing around a lead-off double, and the Tigers had their first series win at Kauffman Stadium in their last five tries, dating back to 2014.