DETROIT (AP) — Kansas City’s Whit Merrifield launched a three-run shot in the top of the third, but the Tigers Jonathan Schoop and Christin Stewart each hit a two-run homer in the third inning to lift the Detroit Tigers to a 4-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night.
Tyler Alexander (1-0) and four other relievers kept the Royals scoreless for the final six innings, with Joe Jimenez pitching the ninth for his third save.
There were a pair of blunders in the ninth on the same play when Detroit first baseman C.J. Cron dropped a popup hit by Adalberto Mondesi, but Mondesi rounded first too far and was thrown out before he could get back to the bag.
Rony Garcia worked the first three innings for Detroit in his major league debut. The 22-year-old right-hander looked sharp until the third. That’s when Brett Phillips hit a grounder that bounced off Cron for an error — and after Garcia retrieved the ball, his throw to first sailed past for another error.
That play left runners on second and third with one out, and Merrifield followed with a drive to left that made it 3-0. Garcia recovered to strike out his final two hitters.
“It was a very happy experience. It’s something that I’ve been dreaming since I was a kid,” Garcia said through a translator. “I felt very happy being on the mound and saying, finally, ‘I made it. I’m a major leaguer.'”
Kansas City starter Kyle Zimmer pitched two scoreless innings, then hit JaCoby Jones with a pitch to start the Detroit third. Tyler Zuber (0-1) relieved and allowed the homers to Schoop and Stewart.
Mondesi went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts and the baserunning mistake. Royals manager Mike Matheny said he’s pressing.
“We’re just going to continue to talk to him, (let) him breathe a little bit,” Matheny said. “He’s such a pure and natural player, everything he does. I know there are things right now he’s not happy with.”
Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire wouldn’t say much about the progress of top pitching prospect Casey Mize, who was left off the active roster for the start of the season. Mize was the top pick in the 2018 amateur draft, and Detroit fans are eagerly anticipating his big league debut — whenever it happens.
“He’s fine. He’s doing great,” Gardenhire said when asked about Mize before Tuesday’s game. “Not allowed to talk about him. I get in trouble every time I do.”