KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Jakob Junis had just served up a home run to JaCoby Jones and a base hit to Jeimer Candelario, and the Royals’ young right-hander could feel the inning starting to get away from him.
So when he turned around to watch his infield turn a timely double-play on a grounder by Jose Iglesias, Junis wheeled right back around with the kind of fist pump rare for the soft-spoken starter.
“That was a big at-bat,” Junis said. “Who knows if I would have gotten a chance to go back out.”
Junis did indeed get to go back out for the ninth, and when he mowed through Detroit’s lineup one more time, he had his first career complete game. The six-hitter allowed Kansas City to roll to a 6-2 victory to begin a midweek, two-game set between AL Central rivals Tuesday night.
Not only was it his first big league complete game, it was his first as a professional.
“That’s a goal you set out to do,” said Junis, who improved to 4-0 with a 1.74 ERA in four starts against Detroit this season. “A great feeling to accomplish that. Hopefully more to come.”
The only runs Junis (7-12) allowed came in the third, when Candelario managed a sacrifice fly, and the eighth, when Jones went deep. Otherwise, the young right-hander worked briskly and efficiently, with seven strikeouts and no walks producing his second win since May 18.
“You have confidence against certain teams. Pitchers get that,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “You have success and that gives you confidence. You ride that.”
Junis’ three previous wins against Detroit came in April and May, when he was off to a hot start, but he struggled throughout June and landed on the disabled list with lower back inflammation. But he’s been solid in eight starts since his return, cutting down his walks and home runs.
“He wasn’t showing it, but he was very frustrated when he was going through that period. He’s not a robot,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Tonight he was pretty much in control the whole way.”
Adalberto Mondesi went deep off Matthew Boyd (8-12) to lead off the third inning, and the Royals wound up batting around. Jorge Bonifacio hit a sacrifice fly, Hunter Dozier added a two-run double and Alcides Escobar wrapped up the big inning with a two-out single that gave Kansas City a 5-1 lead.
That turned out to be plenty with Junis on the mound.
Boyd, who threw six shutout innings against the White Sox his last time out, wound up allowing five runs on seven hits and three walks in six innings. The Tigers’ right-hander dropped to 3-7 in 13 career starts against Kansas City, and he’s just 8-21 in 41 starts on the road.
“I just got away from my fastball. Hats off to Mondesi, he hit my pitch,” Boyd said. “I lost a little feel for the fastball as the inning went on and that’s what happened.”
Detroit could have used a gem from him as they opened a nine-game trip. They’ve lost four straight and five of six, their offense failing to score more than three runs in any of the defeats.
STATS AND STREAKS
Junis had the first nine-inning complete game by the Royals since Jason Vargas on June 2, 2017, against the Indians. … Royals 1B Hunter Dozier has six RBIs in his last six games. He had four in his previous 35. … Tigers LF Mikie Mahtook has reached base in 13 straight games.
Jones (right hamstring strain) was back in the lineup for the first time since hitting the DL on Aug. 13. OF Mike Gerber was optioned to Triple-A Toledo on Sunday to create a roster spot for him.
Tigers: LHP Daniel Norris (left groin strain) could start Saturday against the Yankees in New York, Gardenhire said. Norris has been sharp in rehab outings at Toledo after compiling a 5.87 ERA in five appearances for Detroit before getting hurt.
Royals: OF Brian Goodwin (left groin strain) will rejoin the club when rosters expand Sept. 1, Yost said. … OF Jorge Soler (left toe fracture) will finish the season with Triple-A Omaha before he rejoins the Royals. That would mean Soler is expected back Sept. 4.
Tigers RHP Michael Fulmer tries to build on a solid start in his return from the disabled list, when he threw 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the White Sox last Friday. The Royals counter with LHP Danny Duffy as the teams wrap up their two-game series with a matinee Wednesday.