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Tumbling Tigers fall meekly to Royals

Associated Press • Sep 27, 2017 at 1:19 AM

KANSAS CITY, MO. — The Tigers are speeding toward a couple of dubious achievements; one irredeemable, the other could eventually produce a positive gain.

They lost their eighth straight baseball game Tuesday – 2-1 to the Royals. They have 95 losses with five games left (they are an abysmal 4-21 in September), bringing their first 100-loss season since 2003 in clear sight.

Well within reach also is the worst record in baseball, a feat that is rewarded with the first overall pick in the draft. The Tigers left the field Tuesday a half-game ahead of the Giants (61-95, playing Arizona late) and a half-game behind the Phillies (62-96) in that three-plow horse race.

The saving grace in this latest loss was starter Anibal Sanchez. He posted his third straight quality start.

He scattered seven hits in six innings, with six strikeouts. The Royals scratched out single runs in the fourth and fifth innings.

Whit Merrifield led off the fourth with a double and Sanchez was within an out of stranding him at third base. But with two outs, Eric Hosmer hit a flare off the end of the bat behind third base into shallow left field.

Shortstop Jose Iglesias didn't chase the ball and left fielder Alex Presley couldn't get to it. It fell in for a double.

In the fifth, Merrifield's sacrifice fly scored Brandon Moss, who had singled and gone to third on a single by Alex Gordon.

In his last three starts, Sanchez allowed four runs in 18 innings with 25 strikeouts. The strong finish is a tribute to his perseverance this season. Sanchez started the season in the bullpen, had a couple of stints on the disabled list, then chose to go down to Triple-A Toledo to rebuild his arm strength and pitch count.

In the end, though, he did what he set out to do – reestablish himself as a capable big-league starting pitcher. The Tigers are expected to decline their $18 million option on him for next season, making Sanchez a free agent.

The last time the Tigers faced Royals starter Jason Vargas, they KO'd him in the second inning, putting up seven runs. Different story this time.

The Tigers managed a run and five hits off him in six innings. Ian Kinsler's RBI single in the fourth inning was the only hit Vargas allowed that wasn't erased at second base by a double play or caught stealing.

Vargas induced nine ground ball outs and three double plays. The Tigers grounded into five double plays in the game.

Kinsler's RBI single came on his 600th plate appearance – which triggered his $11 million guarantee for 2018.

The Tigers managed one hit off three Royals relievers - Kelvin Herrera, Joakim Soria and Mike Minor -- in the final three innings.

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