In relief of Lorenzo Cain for the day, Royals outfielder Paulo Orlando made a run-saving catch and hit a go-ahead, two-run home run in a 7-4 win over the Tigers at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. Maria Torres The Kansas City Star
In relief of Lorenzo Cain for the day, Royals outfielder Paulo Orlando made a run-saving catch and hit a go-ahead, two-run home run in a 7-4 win over the Tigers at Kauffman Stadium on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. Maria Torres The Kansas City Star

Kansas City Royals

These two Royals suffered through volatile seasons. They helped beat the Tigers on Wednesday

By Rustin Dodd

rdodd@kcstar.com

September 27, 2017 10:37 PM

UPDATED September 28, 2017 12:19 AM

Jason Hammel wrapped up his first season in Kansas City, Paulo Orlando clubbed his first home run, and the Royals pieced together a 7-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers on a Wednesday night that had the chill of October but none of the stakes.

In his final outing of the season, Hammel yielded three runs in six innings, his ERA settling at 5.29 after 32 starts. His performance kept his team in the game before Orlando delivered a redemptive strike in the bottom of the seventh inning and the offense clicked in the eighth.

His team trailing 3-2 in the seventh, his season marred by a demotion in April and a fractured shin that sidelined him for months, Orlando unloaded on a 2-0 curveball from Detroit reliever Drew VerHagen. The baseball soared 412 feet to deep left, bouncing into the Hall of Fame suites above the Royals’ bullpen. The two-out, two-run blast represented Orlando’s first homer since Sept. 19 of last year and flipped the score in the Royals’ favor.

“He drove it deep in the night,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.

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“I didn’t feel it,” Orlando said. “I knew it was gone.”

Orlando may not be the definitive replacement in center field if Lorenzo Cain leaves via free agency. The club could look for other options outside the organization. But the Royals have identified him as a possible internal solution.

On Wednesday, he was in the starting lineup as Yost rested Cain and catcher Salvador Perez in advance of playing his regulars for three games this weekend against the Arizona Diamondbacks. In addition to the raw display of power, Orlando added a terrific sliding catch in the right-center gap in the top of the first, saving two runs. In the moments after the victory, he assessed an uneven season in which he could not build on a 2016 breakout.

“Tough year,” he said. “I started pretty good and then I got sent out to make an adjustment in my swing, then I got hurt. I had a lot of time to think about myself. I tried to be healthy and get myself back here and help the team.”

For one night, he did. Kansas City’s offense erased a 3-0 deficit and notched its second straight victory, securing the 45th come-from-behind win of the season, which ranks second in club history behind the 1977 Royals. Melky Cabrera delivered a two-run single in the bottom of the third, scoring Whit Merrifield from first on a play that featured a smart send from third-base coach Mike Jirschele.

Cabrera placed the ball in the gap. Merrifield never stopped sprinting. He jetted for home when the throw came in toward second base.

“Whit got a good jump,” Yost said. “He was coming hard. If you don’t take for granted that the third-base coach is gonna slow you up there … you can make those types of plays.”

Ned Yost impressed by Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield's base running

On an gutsy send from third-base coach Mike Jirschele, Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield scored from first base in the third inning to shorten the Tigers' lead in an eventual 7-4 win for the Royals on Wednesday at Kauffman Stadium.

Maria Torres The Kansas City Star

Hammel (8-13) settled in after allowing three runs in the opening three innings, handing the baseball to the bullpen after the sixth. The Royals (78-80) erupted for five runs in the seventh and eighth innings and now must win three of their last four to finish at .500 or better for the fifth straight season.

Shortstop Alcides Escobar finished with a triple and a double. Merrifield collected two more hits. The Royals will go for a sweep on Thursday night.

For Hammel, 35, the night offered a decent sendoff after a season that vacillated between frustrating and serviceable. As the afternoon began, the veteran right-hander sat at his locker in the corner of the clubhouse, moving boxes filling the room one day after the Royals were officially eliminated.

In some ways, it was a familiar sight. In the hours before most starts, Hammel could usually be found at a table inside the clubhouse, studying a scouting report or looking over a crossword puzzle, pencil in hand. For months, his partner in vocabulary adventures was Travis Wood, the left-handed swingman traded to the San Diego Padres before the trade deadline.

Hammel and Wood had both spent the 2016 season with the Chicago Cubs, helping the franchise win its first World Series championship in 108 years. Each had played a role. Hammel was a strong fifth starter; Wood was a solid bullpen piece. The Royals signed both to two-year contracts, hoping they would reinforce a pitching staff that sustained the tragic loss of Yordano Ventura and parted ways with Wade Davis via trade.

Wood never found comfort, posting an ERA that flirted with 7.00 before being cast off to San Diego. Hammel, meanwhile, crafted a season in which he yo-yoed between reliable and disappointing. He stumbled out of the gates in April and May. He found a groove during the late summer months, usually logging about six innings, usually giving up two, three or four runs. Yet in the end, he also surrendered a career-high 26 homers, 209 hits and 106 earned runs.

“I feel like that was the tale of my 2017,” he said. “Bleeders and then bombs. I couldn’t find the middle ground. I felt like I really didn’t trick anybody this year. I’d like to say subpar year for myself individually.”

You could perhaps ascribe some of Hammel’s bloated ERA to his manager’s usage. Hammel often struggled to navigate his third trip through an opposing lineup; he entered Wednesday having allowed opponents to hit .350 off him in those situations. Yet he was asked to do it more often than not.

Sometimes it worked out. Sometimes it did not. And now Hammel will return to the Royals in 2018, hoping to improve his numbers in the final season of his contract. On Wednesday, he logged one more start. His team earned a victory as it prepared for the final four days of the season. He was satisfied — sort of.

“I did some good things and obviously some bad things, too,” Hammel said. “So I fell short of expectations for myself.”

Mike Minor on closing: 'I think anybody would want that role'

Royals reliever Mike Minor has recorded a save in each of his last four appearances, including in 7-4 victory over the Tigers on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, at Kauffman Stadium.

Maria Torres The Kansas City Star

Royals 7, Tigers 4

Detroit

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Kinsler 2b

4

1

0

0

1

2

.236

Presley lf

4

2

3

0

1

0

.325

Castellanos rf

4

1

2

0

1

1

.272

Candelario 3b

5

0

2

3

0

1

.299

McCann c

5

0

1

1

0

1

.252

Navarro 1b

3

0

0

0

1

1

.224

Machado dh

4

0

1

0

0

1

.275

Romine cf

4

0

1

0

0

1

.230

Iglesias ss

4

0

0

0

0

0

.256

Totals

37

4

10

4

4

8

 

Kansas City

AB

R

H

BI

BB

SO

Avg.

Merrifield 2b

4

2

2

0

0

0

.288

Cabrera rf

4

0

2

2

0

0

.289

Mondesi pr

0

0

0

0

0

0

.160

Bonifacio rf

0

0

0

0

0

0

.252

Hosmer dh

3

1

0

0

1

0

.319

Moustakas 3b

2

1

0

0

2

0

.271

Moss 1b

4

0

0

0

0

0

.209

Escobar ss

4

1

2

2

0

0

.252

Gordon lf

3

1

1

0

1

1

.212

Orlando cf

4

1

2

2

0

0

.175

Butera c

3

0

0

0

0

3

.236

Totals

31

7

9

6

4

4

 

Detroit

102

000

001

4

10

0

Kansas City

002

000

23x

7

9

0

LOB: Detroit 10, Kansas City 4. 2B: Castellanos (35), McCann (14), Cabrera (29), Escobar (35). 3B: Escobar (5). HR: Orlando (1), off VerHagen. RBIs: Candelario 3 (15), McCann (49), Cabrera 2 (85), Escobar 2 (53), Orlando 2 (5).

Runners left in scoring position: Detroit 7 (Candelario, McCann, Navarro, Machado 2, Romine, Iglesias). RISP: Detroit 3 for 13; Kansas City 3 for 6.

Runners moved up: Castellanos, Machado, Candelario. GIDP: Moss, Orlando.

DP: Detroit 2 (Navarro, Iglesias), (Iglesias, Navarro).

Detroit

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Zimmermann

6

4

2

2

1

3

84

6.08

Stumpf

 2/3

1

1

1

0

0

9

4.00

VerHagen, L, 0-3

 1/3

2

2

2

0

1

12

5.85

Bell

 1/3

1

2

2

2

0

14

7.20

Greene

 2/3

1

0

0

1

0

6

2.74

Kansas City

IP

H

R

ER

BB

SO

NP

ERA

Hammel

6

6

3

3

2

6

96

5.29

Moylan

 2/3

0

0

0

2

1

29

3.55

Alexander, W, 5-4

1 1/3

2

0

0

0

1

15

2.49

Maurer

 1/3

2

1

1

0

0

13

6.52

Minor, S, 4

 2/3

0

0

0

0

0

10

2.62

VerHagen pitched to 1 batter in the 8th.

Hold: Stumpf (7). Blown save: VerHagen (1). Inherited runners-scored: VerHagen 1-1, Bell 1-1, Greene 3-2, Alexander 2-0, Minor 2-1. WP: Bell.

Umpires: Home, D.J. Reyburn; First, Greg Gibson; Second, Jim Wolf; Third, Laz Diaz. Time: 3:12. Att: 21,319.