KANSAS CITY -- Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann continued his hot start, tossing 6 1/3 innings of scoreless ball as the Tigers held on for a 3-2 victory over the Royals on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Zimmermann (3-0), signed this past offseason as a free agent, gave up seven hits, walked one and struck out eight. He now has opened the season with 19 1/3 scoreless innings.
"It's just a number," Zimmermann said. "I just try to go out there and put up zeros and keep the game close. I try to go with a bend-but-don't-break mentality, and I've been able to do that the last few games."
Royals right-hander Ian Kennedy, another big free-agent signing this past offseason, also has had a strong start and nearly matched Zimmermann. Kennedy (2-1) gave up two runs over 6 1/3 innings and struck out seven, while giving up six hits and two walks.
"Zimmermann threw the ball really well, and so did Kennedy," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "With Kennedy, he elevated one ball to [Ian Kinsler] and that was about it. Besides that, he was efficient with his pitches, banging them for strikes.
"Both pitchers coming in, I figured it would be a pitchers' duel, and it was."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Kinsler comes through: The Tigers seemingly squandered a chance for an opening run when Jose Iglesias tried to take second base on an opposite-field single, leaving him open for an easy throwout from Jarrod Dyson. With a sac fly chance nullified, Kinsler came through with a double to the wall in right-center field, putting Detroit on top in the third inning.
Big chance missed: The Royals appeared set to get to Zimmermann in the fifth after Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez led off with singles to left field. Omar Infante was asked to bunt, but fouled off two straight attempts. Infante then took a fastball down the middle for strike three. Dyson was next and he hit a grounder to second, where Kinsler flipped to first for an out. The Tigers then started a rundown of Perez, and Gordon had no choice but to break for the plate. Gordon was thrown out easily.
Grand milestone for V-Mart: One night after Victor Martinez recorded his 999th career RBI on a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch, his 1,000th RBI was a crucial insurance run the more traditional way, a two-out single to left in the sixth.
Kennedy was trying to bounce a curve in the dirt to Martinez but it stayed up.
"He's such a good hitter that I didn't want to leave something there for him to hit," Kennedy said. "That's why I got mad at myself."
Making it interesting: The Royals got close in the ninth off closer Francisco Rodriguez. Gordon, with one out, drilled a homer to right field, his first homer of the season. The next batter, Perez, then walloped a homer to left. With two out, Dyson walked and stole second. Then Alcides Escobar walked. But Rodriguez struck out Mike Moustakas to end the game.
"Even though I still got the job done, it's quite embarrassing," said Rodriguez, who tied Dennis Ecklersley for 6th place on the all-time saves list with career save No. 390. "Simple as that. I have to pitch a lot better now, just get first-pitch strikes and put hitters away. Stop messing around."
"We never quit," Perez said. "We go to the last out."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Zimmermann became the first pitcher in Tigers history to begin a season with three consecutive outings of six or more scoreless innings, according to research on baseball-reference.com. His 19 1/3 consecutive shutout innings mark the longest streak to begin a Tigers tenure since Doug Bair threw 19 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings after a midseason trade from St. Louis in 1983.
"No lie, I think it means a lot," Martinez said. "Never thought I was going to make it, first of all, to the big leagues. And then to get to this point. Proud for everything I've done in my career. But I think the most important thing tonight is we were able to get a good win. Those guys over there are tough." -- Martinez on his 1,000th career RBI, making him the fifth Venezuelan-born player to reach the mark, and the third active switch-hitter of any nationality.
WHAT'S NEXT Tigers:Mike Pelfrey takes the ball for his third Tigers start as the series wraps up Thursday night at 7:15 p.m. ET. He had a win and two no-decisions against the Royals last year as a Twin.
Royals: Right-hander Edinson Volquez gets the start for the Royals in the series finale at 6:15 p.m. CT on Thursday. Volquez has a 6.21 career ERA against the Tigers in seven starts.