DETROIT (AP) — Victor Reyes and Riley Greene hit back-to-back homers in the ninth inning to give the Detroit Tigers a 4-3 win over the Kansas City Royals on Saturday.
With one out in the ninth, Reyes tied the game off Royals reliever Joel Payamps (2-2). It was the first homer allowed by Payamps in 26.1 innings this season. Greene followed by hitting a ball into the shrubs above the 420-foot sign in centerfield.
“This is an awesome feeling,” said Greene, who scored three of Detroit's four runs. “I need to give a shoutout to (Reyes) for hitting his homer to give me that chance, I wasn't sure it was going to get out, but when I saw it — the adrenaline rush went right through me.”
The 21-year-old, Detroit's No. 1 prospect, was supposed to start the season with the Tigers, but a foot injury meant he couldn't make his major-league debut until June 18. He tied a major-league record with five walks in his first two games, and is now hitting .302 with a .434 on-base percentage and a .442 slugging percentage in 43 at-bats.
“He had really good at-bats all day, and even his strikeout should probably have been a walk,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “He put a great swing on that ball. I know, in my short time here, I haven't seen a lot of guys who can put a ball into the bushes in centerfield.”
Payamps pitched a perfect eighth and struck out Spencer Torkelson to start the ninth, but couldn't finish off the first save opportunity of his four-year career.
Matheny on decision to send Payamps back out for bottom of ninth
“We had some guys down from yesterday, and we needed someone who could get us outs,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said about his decision to send Payamps back out for the ninth. “He's a guy who has some experience, and he had been great in the eighth.”
Tigers reliever Joe Jimenez (3-0) pitched a perfect ninth and earned the win as Detroit's pitchers retired the last 17 batters they faced.
“Before the game, we talked about how the shadows were going to make it tough for both teams in the late innings,” Matheny said. “I think that was part of it, and they brought in some guys who were throwing really well. I guess the shadows went away in the bottom of the ninth.”
The Royals took a 2-0 lead on Hunter Dozier's bases-loaded double in the first inning. In the bottom half of the inning, Greene led off with a triple and scored on Javy Báez's sacrifice fly.
“That's a huge moment right there, because we have a tough start to the game, and then Riley comes up and immediately gives us a spark,” Hinch said. “That's what he can already give us.”
Kansas City made it 3-1 in the fourth on Whit Merrifield's RBI single.
The Tigers got a run back in the fifth when Greene walked, took third on Miguel Cabrera's single and scored on a base hit from Eric Haase. Bobby Witt Jr. got Kansas City out of the inning, stealing a base hit from Willi Castro. Detroit had two runners on in the sixth, but Amir Garrett struck out Greene to end the inning.
Garrett threw up his hands in celebration, drawing an angry verbal response from Báez, who had been on deck. Garrett and Báez have a tense relationship dating to a confrontation in 2019, when Garrett was with the Cincinnati Reds and Báez was with the Chicago Cubs.
“He can do whatever he wants,” Báez said. “That's part of his game, and he knows my game.”
Tigers: Despite facial bruising from being hit in the head by Brad Keller on Friday, Spencer Torkelson entered the game in the sixth inning to pinch hit for Kody Clemens. He remained in the game at first base. ... After the game, the Tigers placed RHP Rony Garcia on the injured list and will select RHP Garrett Hill from Triple-A Toledo to start in Monday's doubleheader against the Cleveland Guardians. Hill will be the 14th starting pitcher used by the Tigers this season.
The Royals activated Payamps from the COVID-19 list and outrighted RHP Daniel Mengden to Triple-A Omaha. Payamps had been sidelined since June 13.
Cabrera's fifth-inning single was the 3,059th hit of his career, moving him within one of Craig Biggio for 25th place on the career list. He is currently two RBI behind Manny Ramirez's 1,831 for 18th place.
The teams finish their weekend series with a noon start on Sunday. Detroit's Tarik Skubal (5-6, 3.75) will face Brady Singer (3-3, 4.50).