KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The baseball towered in the ink-black sky for seven seconds, a relative eternity in a seemingly endless game, long enough to deceive an outfielder, confuse a runner at first base and pause the man who powered the ball’s flight in the second inning of a 15-7 Royals victory.
The defender, Tigers left fielder Tyler Collins, drifted toward Kauffman Stadium’s fence at a languid pace, as if the ball would land in his glove at any moment. The runner, Ben Zobrist, watched the ball’s descent and returned to the bag to tag up. And the batter, Lorenzo Cain, idled along the first-base line, careful to not overrun Zobrist, but still as surprised when his three-run homer cleared the 387-foot sign in left and exited the field of play.
Little on Thursday evening occurred at a brisk pace, not even Kansas City’s first home run. The Royals (82-51) captured a series over the Tigers in a game notable for its inordinate length and inelegant pitching. Edinson Volquez snapped a string of nine consecutive games of at least six innings pitched with a three-inning stint — and he outlasted his counterpart, Tigers rookie Matt Boyd, by two full frames.
The first inning lasted 45 minutes. At the 90-minute mark, Detroit tied the game at six runs apiece. It was still the top of the third. The two teams required 120 minutes to combine for 21 outs, 177 minutes to make 36 and three hours and 58 minutes to finish the entire affair.
After Cain went deep, Volquez proceeded to cough up the three-run lead in the third. His teammates bailed him out with a two-run rally about 40 minutes later. That flurry occurred in the bottom of the fourth, with a sacrifice fly by Alex Gordon and an RBI single by Salvador Perez. Eric Hosmer reached base four times and scored the go-ahead run.
Jonny Gomes extended Kansas City’s lead with an RBI double in the sixth. Asked to pitch two innings, Luke Hochevar allowed a run in the seventh. The lead looked shaky until the seventh, when the Royals unloaded on the Tigers bullpen for six more runs, a barrage concluded by Paulo Orlando’s two-run homer.
A night after plating a dozen runs against the hapless Tigers pitching staff, Kansas City scored double-digit runs in back-to-back games for the first time this season. The team collected 20 hits for the first time in a game since July 3, 2011.
The first inning featured some unfortunate symmetry for fans of crisp baseball. Volquez and Boyd each threw 38 pitches. Together they allowed five runs, with Volquez giving up three.
The Tigers blitzed Volquez at the start. In part, he can blame himself for faulty command. Anthony Gose, the slim outfielder, crushed an inside fastball for a leadoff homer. The next two batters, Ian Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera, rocketed singles up the middle that caused Volquez to flinch.
Volquez had a chance to limit the damage to one run. Except he hung a two-out curveball to third baseman Nick Castellanos. Castelllanos doubled down the first-base line and drove in two runs.
Kansas City answered in the bottom of the frame. The retaliation did not come quickly – Boyd operated at far too ponderous a pace for swift retribution. But the Royals did load the bases on a single by Zobrist, another by Cain and a walk by Hosmer.
Into the breach stepped Kendrys Morales, Kansas City’s most reliable collector of RBI. He boosted his season total to 96 when Boyd threw a flat changeup. Morales cracked it for a two-run single. He later hit a two-run double in the seventh to place himself two shy of the century mark for RBI.
An inning later, the Royals finished the job on Boyd. When he faced the Royals on Aug. 5 at Comerica Park, he flummoxed his opponents for seven innings and allowed only one run.
Five days later, Kansas City scored three runs and handed him a loss. On Thursday, the team wrecked Boyd’s already sizable ERA (7.12 heading into the game).
A pair of rookies opened a four-run second, as Cheslor Cuthbert and Christian Colon both singled. Zobrist tied the game when he did the same. Cain followed up with his homer to eject Boyd from the proceedings and hand Volquez a three-run lead.
Volquez could not hold it. Detroit delivered a three-run rally in the third based on a succession of broken-bat hits after Miguel Cabrera’s leadoff double. All three runs scored with two outs. The context must have vexed Volquez.
Castellanos struck first, floating a single shallow enough into right field that Zobrist, playing second base, could field it. But Zobrist made an inaccurate throw home and Cabrera scored. Another soft knock, this one a double to right by outfielder Tyler Collins, trimmed the lead to one. The game was tied when Volquez shattered the bat of catcher James McCann but could not prevent his single from falling into left.
An inning later, the Royals struck back. Hosmer and Morales notched one-out hits. Jonny Gomes drilled reliever Kyle Ryan with a groundball to load the bases with an infield single. Gordon lifted a fly to center field to plate Hosmer. Perez added to the advantage with a single to left.
The lead appeared in doubt in the top of the fifth. Chris Young had replaced Volquez. He walked designated hitter Victor Martinez and surrendered a double to Castellanos. But with Martinez still hobbled after preseason surgery, he braked at third base. Young did not allow him to advance any further. Perez sprawled onto his back on a sliding catch near the Tigers dugout for the third out.
The game descended into a bludgeoning after that. Detroit entered the game with the worst bullpen ERA in the American League. They would exit still in firm possession of that mark. It only took 238 minutes of standing in place to accomplish that.