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Royals winning ways end as Jakob Junis gets roughed up early in a road loss to Tigers

The Kansas City Star — Lynn Worthy The Kansas City Star

Sept. 16-- Sep. 16--A day off and an abrupt change to the starting pitching plans were precursors to the end of the Kansas City Royals' recent winning streak.

Right-hander Jakob Junis started in place of Danny Duffy on short notice after Duffy missed Monday night's team charter, and Junis allowed five runs without making it through the third inning. Meanwhile, the offense couldn't muster a run as they lost the series opener to the Detroit Tigers, 6-0, at Comerica Park on Tuesday night.

The Royals (20-29) were shut out for the fifth time this season. They'd scored 33 runs in their previous four games.

They entered the week having won six consecutive games dating back to Junis' start in Cleveland a week earlier (Sep. 8). They'd also won consecutive series for the first time this season.

"It's different, but I'm definitely going to blame that for what happened tonight," Junis said of being the emergency starter. "Things happen and you've got to adjust on the fly. When my name is called, I've got a job to do. I've got to go out and do it whenever my name is called, no matter what the circumstances are."

Though Duffy did join the team in Detroit, the Royals skipped his scheduled start due to what the club called disciplinary action.

Junis, who found out he was starting around 11:30 a.m., allowed three first-inning runs -- all with two outs -- on an RBI single by Niko Goodrum and a two-run single to left field by former Royal Jorge Bonifacio.

Junis allowed a leadoff double to Isaac Paredes in the second inning. However, Victor Reyes lined into an inning-ending double play that helped Junis avoid further damage in that frame.

Miguel Cabrera continued the assault in the third with a one-out solo home run to the opposite field, and the Junis gave up back-to-back singles, the second one on a chopper up the middle that he got his glove on but couldn't field cleanly.

Royals manager Mike Matheny took Junis out in favor of reliever Jake Newberry.

"I felt like I was searching for it," Junis said of his fastball command. "But my slider was playing pretty good. I just felt like I was throwing almost too many at times. When I needed to mix in a fastball, when I went to mix in that fastball it had to be over the plate. It didn't hitting the corner where I was aiming and it got taken advantage of.

"I threw a pretty good changeup to Goodrum, he hit that ground ball up the middle and the natural reaction to jump up to try to catch it. It goes off my glove, squirts into the middle of the infield and everybody is safe. That one hurts. Little things like that spiral out of control. It happens quick."

Junis (0-2) threw 42 pitches, allowed seven hits and one walk in 2 1/3 innings. He struck out one.

"He just never got in a spot where he made his slider as relevant as he needed to make it," Matheny said of Junis. "And then the fastball command really wasn't as sharp as what we were looking for tonight."

Whit Merrifield (2 for 5) and Salvador Perez (2 for 4) combined for four of the team's five hits. Nicky Lopez had the only other hit.

The Tigers (21-26) smacked 14 hits.

The Royals' best scoring opportunity came in the first inning after Merrifield's leadoff double. He stole third base and ran on contact on Perez's grounder to shortstop. Merrifield was thrown out at the plate as Perez's bat blocked him from sliding and potentially making it a closer play at the plate.

In the third inning after Perez doubled, Maike Franco lined out to center field with two outs. Franco had driven in 11 runs in his previous seven games.

"We just had trouble getting a rhythm offensively," Matheny said. "Right there, leadoff double. We'd been so good about getting guys over, getting them in or getting a big hit -- one of the two. We let that first one slip. We had guys on base again (in the third), then Frankie put together a good at-bat, lined out to center field. We end up with another zero and then just kind of go on our heels and couldn't catch our momentum."

Relief pitcher Matt Harvey gave up the only other run of the game. He pitched 2/3 innings before he left the game in the middle of an at-bat in the sixth inning due to right posterior shoulder discomfort/tightness.

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