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Royals, Tigers find motivation in late-season series

Aug 18, 2022; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA;  Kansas City Royals manager Mike Matheny (22) looks on in the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Despite losing records that are guaranteed, the Detroit Tigers and host Kansas City Royals insist they will be plenty motivated for an American League Central series this weekend.

In the opener of a three-game set on Friday night, the Tigers will send Joey Wentz (0-1, 8.10 ERA) to the mound, while the Royals will counter with their own lefty, Daniel Lynch (4-9, 4.82).

Both teams had a much-needed day off Thursday. The Royals (56-82) played on 27 of the previous 29 days, including nine straight, while the Tigers (52-85) also played on nine straight days and on 12 of the last 13.

No matter what happens in the series, the Tigers will remain in last place in the AL Central, although they can gain ground on the Royals.

“The end goal does not change,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said. “We’d like to win (each) series, but that doesn’t happen until we win today’s game. Let’s take care of what we can take care of. These guys need the consistency of expectation.

“Every day we go out and play a high-caliber baseball game, it changes the expectation level for the next time we walk in the doors here.”

Kansas City has at least five rookies in most starting lineups, with as many as eight available. Lynch is in his second season and a wily veteran by comparison.

Lynch has made four starts against the Tigers in his career, going 1-1 with a 4.12 ERA. He has faced them twice this season over nine innings and has a 6.00 ERA with two no-decisions.

High pitch counts have been Lynch’s biggest problem in 2022, coupled with control issues. He is allowing 3.8 walks per nine innings, while in his four victories, he has issued a total of five walks.

The Tigers have their share of promising rookies and the future looks bright, even if the present hasn’t matched up to expectations.

“This is a young group who has played together and they’re trying to find their way,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said after Wednesday’s 5-4 road victory over the Angels, when three of the Tigers’ four home runs were hit by rookies. “They’re learning a lot. These are all unfamiliar situations, but they banded together, and today was a good reason why we like these guys.”

One of those rookies, Ryan Kreidler, hit his first career home run in the ninth inning Wednesday that proved to be the game-winner. That followed fellow rookie Kerry Carpenter’s game-tying home run.

Wentz, another rookie, will be making his third career start and first since late May. He was shelled in his debut on May 11 against the Oakland Athletics, allowing six runs on seven hits in 2 2/3 innings. In his second outing, May 31 against the Minnesota Twins, he allowed one hit in four innings. He struck out four and didn’t walk a batter, leaving that start with a shoulder strain.

–Field Level Media