KANSAS CITY — Detroit manager Jim Leyland gave his own version of a commencement speech to Jeremy Bonderman on Wednesday night.
After Matt Stairs slugged a three-run home run in the sixth inning, Leyland told the 23-year-old Bonderman it was “time to graduate.”
And apparently he did. Bonderman settled down and did not allow another run Wednesday night while the Tigers, with two home runs from Omar Infante, beat Kansas City 6-3 to hand the Royals their 12th straight loss.
Leyland wanted to make sure Bonderman (5-3) didn’t get flustered after allowing Stairs’ home run.
“I told him it’s time to graduate and really become the major league pitcher you can be,” Leyland said. “This is a perfect time for you to turn the page, get your concentration on the next hitter and put that in the memory bank somewhere. This is where you either graduate or you don’t.”
Bonderman, who went seven innings and gave up three runs and 10 hits, was not ready to say he aced the test.
“He said, ’You’ve got to step up,’” Bonderman recalled. “You can’t feel sorry for yourself for that home run. I was able to make some pitches and the guys played some defense.”
Brandon Inge also hit a home run and Ivan Rodriguez had three hits for the Tigers, who lead the majors with a 32-14 record and the AL with 39 road homers. Detroit has won 12 of its last 13 and has a major league-best 19 road victories.
The hapless Royals dropped to 10-34 and are beginning to draw comparisons with the 2003 Detroit team that lost an AL-record 119 games and the 1962 New York Mets whose 120 losses set the modern futility record.
In their 12-game skid, their second double-digit losing streak already this year, the Royals have been outscored 87-41.
“We had some opportunities offensively,” manager Buddy Bell said.
In three starts this year against Kansas City, Bonderman is 3-0 with a 1.66 ERA.
“He has always looked impressive to us,” Bell said.
The Tigers have outscored the Royals 46-13 and outhomered them 18-7 in taking the first seven games against them this season.
After wrapping up the four-game Detroit series on Thursday, the Royals begin a 10-game trip Friday night with three in Yankee Stadium, where they have lost 14 in a row. They are 2-20 on the road this season.
Bonderman is 4-0 in six road starts.
“It’s one game. I’ve got to keep doing it,” he said. “It’s a long year. I’m just trying to be part of the success around here.”
Todd Jones pitched the ninth for his 15th save in 16 chances.
Jimmy Gobble (0-1) gave the Royals a solid outing in an emergency start for Mark Redman, going four innings and giving up only three hits and one run. It was the left-handed reliever’s first start since last Sept. 21.
Infante hit his first homer with two outs and none on in the second and added a second solo drive in the eighth. He’s played in only four of Detroit’s last 13 games.
“He hasn’t complained once about playing time at all,” Inge said. “I like to see him do well. He’s worked hard in batting practice. It doesn’t shock me at all. He’s a good hitter.”
Marcus Thames drew a two-out walk from Mike Wood ahead of Inge’s two-run shot in the fifth.
In the sixth, runs scored on a fielding error by first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz and Infante’s fielder’s choice.
“Inexcusable _ no two ways about it,” Mientkiewicz said. “I’ve made that play 2,000 times in my career.”