DETROIT (AP) — Vinnie Pasquantino took a most unusual path to the plate on his first big league home run — a furious sprint, a desperate slide and even a tag.
Pasquantino and Hunter Dozier hit back-to-back homers, leading Brad Keller and the Kansas City Royals over the Detroit Tigers 3-1 on Friday night.
Playing his third game in majors, Pasquantino was 0 for 6 overall when he hit Michael Pineda’s first pitch of the fourth inning to deep right. The ball hit the top of the fence, bounced off a railing and back onto the field.
Thinking the ball was in play, Pasquantino tried to get a double out of it, but Javy Baez took Willi Castro’s throw and tagged the rookie as he slid into the bag. The Tigers shortstop then told Pasquantino to get up and enjoy the last half of his home-run trot.
“I got tagged out at second base by Javy Baez” on home run No. 1, Pasquantino said. “How cool is that?”
“I’m glad that all got captured on video, because I’m going to be showing that to my grandkids someday,” he said.
“I sent Javy a jersey and I hope he’ll sign it for me,” he said. “I never really pictured my first major league hit, but there’s no way it could be any better than what happened.”
Keller (3-9) allowed five hits and two walks in six-plus scoreless innings. He’s won two of his last three starts.
“When he’s on, he can really move the ball around,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “We really couldn’t get the ball off the ground against him for the first five innings, and then we couldn’t get a big hit later on.”
Keller exited after hitting rookie Spencer Torkelson in the helmet with an 88 mph changeup in the seventh. Torkelson stayed on his feet and walked off the field under his own power.
“I really hate that my outing ended like that,” Keller said. “You never want to see someone get hit in the head, but I sent a (clubhouse attendant) over to their clubhouse and they said he’s fine.”
Torkelson passed concussion tests and could be available off the bench on Saturday.
“It was scary, but he’s going to be fine,” Hinch said. “We just weren’t going to take any chances after he got hit in the head.”
The Tigers scored in the ninth on Eric Haase’s sacrifice fly. Royals closer Scott Barlow walked Riley Greene, bringing the winning run to the plate, but he retired Willi Castro on the next pitch for his 11th save.
Pineda (1-3) threw 65 pitches in his return from the injured list, giving up three runs and seven hits in five innings. He struck out three without a walk.
“He did a good job — they just ambushed him in the fourth inning,” Hinch said. “He didn’t get a rehab start, so he was never going past the fifth.”
The Royals took a 1-0 lead in the third when Whit Merrifield doubled, stole third without a throw against the shift and scored on Andrew Benintendi’s single.
After Pasquantino homered, Dozier sent a 2-0 pitch into the Kansas City bullpen. It was the second time this season the Royals have hit back-to-back homers.
The Tigers put their first two runners on in the sixth, but Keller retired Javier Baez, Miguel Cabrera and Harold Castro to escape the inning.
“I put myself in a tough spot there, especially having to facing Baez, Miggy and Castro,” Keller said. “Striking out Miggy on a 3-2 slider was a huge moment, because he’s still such a great hitter.”
Detroit did the same thing in the seventh. After Robbie Grossman walked, Keller hit Torkelson in the helmet. Taylor Clarke replaced Keller and retired the next three hitters to keep Detroit scoreless.
“The whole game can change right there if we can get a hit in one of those two innings,” Hinch said.
The teams play the second game of their weekend series on Saturday afternoon, with Detroit’s Beau Brieske (1-6, 4.55) facing Brady Singer (3-3, 4.50).