All was not despair and doom, however! Because Ned Yost, the Royals’ manager, left starter Jeremy Guthrie in the game to pitch the eighth! Guthrie, who’d given up twelve hits to that point! And it was looking like the right move when Guthrie retired Omar Infante looking on a strike out to start the inning. Surely Ned would pull Guthrie now, pat him on the butt, and turn to his reliable bullpen, right? No, Ned chose to let Guthrie pitch to Alex Avila. The same Avila who’d hit an opposite field homerun off Guthrie to give the Tigers their only offense on the day (though they weren’t without their chances, obviously).
Avila punished Guthrie again, slugging his second homer of the day to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead. After Joaquín Benoit retired the Royals 1-2-3 in the ninth, the Tigers shaved one more digit off their magic number, and inched ever closer to a third consecutive playoff appearance. Smyly, who suffered a blown save, collected the victory, while Scherzer will have to wait for another chance at his twentieth victory.
Avila, who has been justifiably criticized at times this season, has been on a tear since mid/late July. Via Dan Dickerson, Avila’s batting average was at .174 on July 19th. Since then, Avila’s hit .323 with a .562 SLG, to go with five homers and 26 RBI in 96 at bats and raised his average to .222 in that stretch.
The Tigers’ victory extends their division lead over the Cleveland Indians to 5.5 games and their lead over the Royals is now 8 games.
The Tigers send Rick Porcello (12-8, 4.56 ERA) to the mound tomorrow to face Joe Saunders (11-14, 5.18 ERA) and the Seattle Mariners, starting at 7:08pm.