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Detroit Tigers shredded by unlikely starter Mike Mayers in a 4-1 loss to Kansas City Royals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Mike Mayers, a 31-year-old right-handed pitcher, has competed in parts of eight seasons in the big leagues, primarily as a reliever. He started for just the seventh time in his career Tuesday and shredded the Detroit Tigers.

Mayers, who signed a minor-league contract on the eve of Opening Day, struck out eight batters through four innings and pitched into the fifth for the Kansas City Royals in a matchup with left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez.

The Tigers lost, 4-1, in the second of three games at Kauffman Stadium ahead of Wednesday’s finale.

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Kansas City Royals pitcher Mike Mayers throws during the first inning of a game against the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, on Tuesday, May 23, 2023.

Once again, the Tigers (21-25) stranded too many runners.

Mayers retired 10 of the first 11 batters he faced before Javier Báez’s one-out single in the fourth inning. He struck out Spencer Torkelson (for the second time) on three consecutive sliders, then he walked Nick Maton on six pitches. Matt Vierling hit an infield single to load the bases for Miguel Cabrera.

Cabrera, a future Hall of Famer, grounded into an inning-ending forceout and stranded the bases loaded. Another bases-loaded situation was squandered in the sixth inning when right-handed reliever Jose Cuas struck out Zach McKinstry.

The Tigers finished 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners on the bases.

Mayers allowed one run on six hits and one walk with eight strikeouts across 4⅔ innings, throwing 54 of 84 pitches for strikes. He threw 36% sliders and generated nine of his 14 whiffs with sliders.

Four relievers out of the Royals’ bullpen kept the Tigers from scoring throughout the final 4⅓ innings.

E-Rod not enough

Pitching for the Tigers, Rodriguez allowed four runs (two earned runs) on eight hits and two walks with nine strikeouts. He battled through the early innings but gave up three runs in the fourth and another run in the fifth.

The fourth inning started with a one-out throwing error by Báez.

Michael Massey drove in the first run of the game when he tagged Rodriguez’s first-pitch fastball for a double to right field, and Massey came around to score on Maikel Garcia’s ensuing single off a second-pitch cutter from Rodriguez.

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Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (57) delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning at Kauffman Stadium.

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (57) delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning at Kauffman Stadium.

Trailing 2-0, Rodriguez allowed a single (Jackie Bradley Jr.) and a walk (Nick Pratto) to load the bases.

Salvador Perez extended the Royals’ lead to 3-0 with a sacrifice fly. The Royals upped the margin to 4-0 following Bobby Witt Jr.’s leadoff single in the fifth. He stole second base — his 14th stolen base — and crossed home plate on Edward Olivares’ one-out single to right field.

It was Rodriguez’s second consecutive start allowing four runs.

Rodriguez, facing a lineup with plenty of left-handed hitters, threw 52% fastballs, 18% sliders, 11% cutters, 10% sinkers and 9% changeups. He generated an impressive 16 whiffs with six four-seamers, six sliders, one cutter, one sinker and two changeups.

One run … and a fun stat

The Tigers chased Mayers in the fifth inning with back-to-back singles from McKinstry and Riley Greene. The Royals brought Cuas out of the bullpen, and on the first pitch, Javier Báez drilled a slider into center field.

McKinstry scored on Báez’s single for the Tigers’ first run. (In Monday’s 8-5 win, Báez delivered a bases-loaded double in the 10th inning.)

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With Greene’s single, the 22-year-old has hit safely in all 17 games he has played against the Royals in his MLB career, which began last season. The stretch is the tie for the third-longest current hitting streak against one team among active players, trailing Freddie Freeman (20 vs. Boston Red Sox) and Starling Marte (18 vs. Texas Rangers).

He is tied at 17 games with Cleveland’s Josh Bell (vs. New York Mets).

Maton, by the way, finished 1-for-2 with two walks in Tuesday’s loss.

Contact Evan Petzold at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers falter vs. career reliever in a 4-1 loss to Kansas City

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