DETROIT — If there was a better way to explain the streakiest team in baseball, Royals manager Ned Yost would do more than sit inside his office chair here and shrug.
“It’s baseball,” he says.
If there was a way to explain the extremes, the torrid stretches, the dead zones, the momentum swings that define his baseball team, well ... he would do so. But he has now been around most of this group for six years or more, and there are some things that just are.
On Tuesday night, the Royals defeated the Tigers 3-1 at Comerica Park. Danny Duffy allowed one run in 6.1 innings, lowering his ERA to 3.56. Whit Merrifield led off the night with a first-pitch homer against Tigers starter Michael Fulmer. Right fielder Jorge Bonifacio and first baseman Eric Hosmer combined on a wondrous double play to extinguish a threat in the eighth inning.
This is how the streakiest team in baseball won its seventh straight game. This is how this July run lasted for another night. The victory left the Royals (52-47) five games over .500 for the first time.
There is no overlap in these streaks. They can be viewed in isolation. There are five winning streaks of at least five games. There are six losing streaks of at least the same number. There is one team, prone to stretches where everything aligns perfectly, where the offense scores and every start is decent and the bullpen is reliable, and then it all goes cold again.
“Whenever they go on kind of a streaky little bad streak,” Yost said this month, “they always back it up with a really good streaky good streak.”
Yost likes to say that the Royals’ nucleus is so close that they often slump together. It’s also possible that an offense predicated on contact and power, and very little plate discipline is bound to go through dead periods when the hits do not find holes or the sequencing is off.
The answer does not appear to be tied to focus or consistency or preparation.
“We always compete to win,” catcher Salvador Perez said, “and we play hard.”
On Tuesday, the offense did not bludgeon Fulmer, as it did when it piled up 16 runs five days ago at Kauffman Stadium. But it scored just enough. Duffy did not dominate like he can, striking out four while throwing 105 pitches. But he executed like a frontline starter.
And then the moment of separation arrived in the bottom of the eighth. With men at the corners and one out, Detroit’s Victor Martinez hit a ball toward the right-field corner off reliever Joakim Soria. Off the bat, the placement spelled doom. But Bonifacio was shaded toward the line and sprinted to his left. He hauled in the baseball on the run. He turned around in deep right field and fired toward first base, where Hosmer made an athletic stretch and pick in foul territory, doubling up base runner Mike Mahtook. In moments, the Royals were out of the inning.
The streak lived on for another night.