KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch pushed the right button at the right time when he brought Zack Short off the bench in Wednesday’s series finale at Kauffman Stadium.
“What’s the movie line? Get busy living or get busy dying,” Hinch said. “You’re kind of at a spot in those situations where you got to take as much advantage as you can to beat the middle part of their bullpen.”
The Kansas City Royals had left-handed reliever Josh Taylor on the mound in the sixth inning. Hinch countered by pinch-hitting Short, despite his limited opportunities this season, for Akil Baddoo.
Short, a right-handed hitter, swung at a first-pitch slider and cranked a three-run home run to left-center field. The Tigers won, 6-4, and took two of three games in the series from the Royals.
“I faced that guy last month (in Triple-A) a few times,” Short said. “I wasn’t really expecting one pitch or another, but I saw it early. All we needed was something to the outfield there, and I put the best swing I could on it.”
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Entering Wednesday’s game, Short was hitting .250 with one home run, three walks and 10 strikeouts in 27 plate appearances. He had played in 15 of the Tigers’ 22 games since being promoted April 29 from Triple-A Toledo.
He started six of those 15 games.
“He doesn’t play very much,” Hinch said. “His role on this team is a defensive specialist, a spot start here or there, provides a lot of energy. The guys go crazy when he does stuff. You guys see behind the scenes how much people care about him. It’s nice. These guys get rewarded when they go up with a good plan.”
The Tigers (22-25) benefitted from Short’s presence on the roster, and Hinch’s chess match expertise, in the pinch-hit situation. His 416-foot home run put the Tigers ahead, 4-1, in the sixth inning.
After the Royals trimmed the lead to two, Jonathan Schoop helped put the series finale out of reach in the eighth inning. He hit a two-run double off right-handed reliever Nick Wittgren to left-center field — driving in Spencer Torkelson (double) and Short (walk) — to extend the Tigers’ advantage to 6-2.
“It’s not the first time I got three strikeouts in a game, and then in my next at-bat, I got a hit,” Schoop said. “You got to get in the moment. You can’t keep thinking about what you did in the first three at-bats. You have to find a way to let it go and contribute. I was like, ‘Relax and let it go .’ I got a good pitch.”
Those were Schoop’s first RBIs of the 2023 season in his 79th plate appearance.
He hadn’t driven in a run since Sept. 29, 2022.
“I think he asked for the ball because it was his first RBI,” Hinch said. “It’s so nice to see him smile and contribute.”
“I was asking for it,” Schoop said.
The Royals scored two runs in the seventh and eighth innings, one each against left-handed reliever Chasen Shreve and right-hander Jason Foley.
Righty Alex Lange struggled in the ninth inning but limited the damage to one run on Bobby Witt Jr.’s sacrifice fly. Lange struck out Nick Pratto to strand a runner on second base and notch his ninth save.
Filling the Boyd
Left-hander Matthew Boyd dominated through three innings before bending in the fourth and nearly breaking in the fifth. He left runners on the corners for right-handed reliever Will Vest with two outs.
The 32-year-old walked two batters and hit another batter. A one-out double and a two-out walk forced Boyd’s exit and put Vest in an uncomfortable situation coming out of the bullpen.
“I think he got into the game a little bit better than he has,” Hinch said of Boyd. “And then he has the one inning where he throws almost 30 pitches. That’s been a couple starts in a row. He gets tired a little bit and starts trying to be perfect.”
Escaping the jam, thanks to Vest, looked easy. Witt swung at a first-pitch fastball and lined out to right field.
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Boyd allowed one run on three hits and two walks with six strikeouts across 4⅔ innings, throwing 52 of 86 pitches for strikes. He loaded the bases with one out in the fourth inning and limited the damage to one run.
After MJ Melendez’s force out drove in a run, Freddy Fermin struck out swinging on Boyd’s slider to conclude the fourth. The slider, which averaged 81 mph, was thrown 41% of the time and generated 10 of 15 whiffs.
“It was great,” Boyd said of his slider. “Kind of exciting to get that back. It felt like it was supposed to. We’ve been working it for a while. We got it to a good spot, and I was happy with it.”
Boyd retired 10 of the first 11 batters he faced.
A Greene monster
Facing right-hander Zack Greinke, the Tigers scored their first run in the top of the fourth inning.
Riley Greene received a fifth-pitch sinker at the top of the strike zone, and his swing produced a 112.6 mph exit velocity. The ball traveled 440 feet to right-center field for a solo home run.
“I’ve seen Greinke so many times do exactly what he did,” Hinch said. “He feasted on the margins and (played) a little bit of the cat and mouse game. We made him work enough to where we could get him out of the game, which was key. … He’s not left-handed, but he’s crafty.”
It was Greene’s fifth homer in 2023 and his third homer in May. Greene, a left-handed hitter, has hit all three of those homers to the right side of the field, a positive sign as he aims to tap into his power potential.
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Greinke allowed one run on four hits and one walk with five strikeouts, throwing 60 of 91 pitches for strikes. He pitched in the 567th game of his 20-year MLB career and has a 4.55 ERA in 11 starts this season.
The 39-year-old recorded nine whiffs and 19 called strikes. His fastball and sinker were his most effective pitches.
Contact Evan Petzold at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Zack Short blasts Detroit Tigers to 6-4 win over Kansas City Royals