Tigers colliding with Royals for weekend series ignites heated debate

Kansas City Royals v Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals v Detroit Tigers / Duane Burleson/GettyImages

The Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals found themselves in very similar positions going into the 2024 season. In 2023, the Tigers got their best divisional finish since 2016. The Royals stayed in dead last, but their star rookie Bobby Witt Jr. became the first Royal to join the 30-30 club. Their offseasons were more eventful than anyone expected for small- to mid-market teams; they focused on starting pitching while supplementing their young offenses with veteran bats.

Before their first meeting of 2024, the Royals got themselves into second place in the AL Central just behind the Guardians, with the Tigers just a few games behind. The Royals were riding high off a resounding series victory against the Blue Jays at home, and they certainly hadn't had to limp through as many of their wins as the Tigers.

Both teams improved on paper during the offseason and were actually proving it on the field. They both had a nice mix of young and veteran players, and they both had a lot to prove. So which one would win out in a head-to-head matchup?

Royals rout Tigers 8-0 in late innings at Comerica as rivalry heats up

Friday's game saw something relatively new for the Tigers this season: the bullpen falling apart. Reese Olson had the ball to start the game, and he held the fort down well, pitching seven innings and only giving up one run while striking out eight batters. For the Royals, Seth Lugo was dealing as well; he allowed five baserunners on three hits and two walks, but the Tigers couldn't turn runners into runs.

The score was 1-0 Royals going into the ninth, when Tyler Holton came in from the Tigers bullpen. He promptly gave up back-to-back singles, then struck out a batter before giving up a walk. With the bases loaded, he hit Adam Frazier with a pitch and forced in a run, then hit Kyle Isbel with a pitch to force in another. He was replaced by Will Vest, but he was still responsible for two runs and three runners on base.

Vest wasn't able to clean anything up. Maikel Garcia promptly drove in two on a single, then Witt tripled to drive in two more. Vinnie Pasquantino flew out to deep center field to score Witt. 8-0, Royals. The inning only ended when Royals batters had gotten all the way through the order and back to Salvador Perez, who'd hit that lead off single and scored the second run of the game.

Although it was a brutal result, it doesn't quite solidify the Royals as the superior team yet. They were able to capitalize on some truly awful mistakes by Tigers relievers and Tigers batters weren't able to actually grab hold of scoring opportunities. Two games are left to go in this series, and Detroit will need to bring a much better side of themselves to the ballpark on Saturday and Sunday if they really want to seem competitive in the division this year.