Verlander had an uncharacteristic night, allowing eight runs to the Royals, a team he's frequently dominated, as the Tigers dropped a 9-8 decision in the series opener at Kauffman Stadium.
The Tigers' eight-run output was the most they had scored since Aug. 14. But their ace right-hander allowed a season-high eight runs on a season-high 12 hits. The last time Verlander gave up eight runs in a game was April 6, 2009, Opening Day against the Blue Jays, and the last time he allowed 12 hits was Aug. 11, 2006, against the White Sox, when he gave up 13.
Despite their starter's unusual outing, the Tigers were right in it until the end, and nearly captured the lead in the ninth inning.
Trailing 9-8 with two outs and runners at the corners, Delmon Young -- who homered in the first inning -- crushed the first pitch he saw from Royals closer Greg Holland into the right-field corner. Initially called a foul ball, umpires reviewed the play and upheld it. Young then flew out to deep left field to end the game.
"Well it was a foul ball. It went before the pole, curved. It was definitely a foul ball," Leyland said. "The umpires, I really appreciate them looking at it. These games are huge, obviously, and they really did a good job of doing that. You can't ask them to do it. They did it on their own, and the right results came out of it. It was not a home run."
"That's what replay's for. I couldn't tell," Young said.
No matter how close it was, though, it was Verlander's performance that put the Tigers in such a deep hole.
Perhaps calling Verlander's outing uncharacteristic is a bit of an understatement. The Royals came in having never scored more than five runs against the Detroit ace. But they plated three in the first and four in the second. After two innings, Verlander had allowed seven runs on 10 hits in 56 pitches.
"It was just one of those nights. Just sometimes it's just not your day, and it wasn't his day," Leyland said. "A lot of people thought it was the second inning that did us in, but I think it was the first inning that hurt us because he got the first two quick outs and then they put the three-spot up. The second inning, they didn't really hit the ball very hard. They found a lot of holes, to their credit. I'm not taking anything away from them, obviously. But I thought the first inning was the key inning."
After striking out the first two batters he faced, Verlander allowed four two-out hits -- two singles and two doubles -- with Mike Moustakas' two-run single as the inning's biggest blow. In the second, five straight one-out hits, highlighted by Alex Gordon's two-run double, produced four runs -- more than Verlander had allowed in the 26 prior second innings he'd pitched all year.
Verlander settled down, allowing zero runs and one hit in the following three innings, but come the bottom of the sixth, the Royals struck again. Salvador Perez drove in a run with a double to left field, upping the score to 8-6 and chasing Verlander from the game.
"I feel like most of the hard balls they hit all day were in that first inning, and just because I missed location. From there forward I made some pretty good pitches, and they just put them in play in the right spots," Verlander said.
"We had a good approach against him tonight," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Justin's probably over there saying he wasn't real sharp tonight, but you take advantage of 'em when you can and we put seven runs on the board, and that's a great job against a pitcher of his caliber."
It was a close game throughout. The Tigers' offense did nearly as much damage against Royals starter Luis Mendoza, scoring three runs in both the first and third innings.
When Kansas City scored to make it a two-run game in the sixth, Miguel Cabrera delivered an RBI single in the seventh, and Jhonny Peralta crushed a solo home run to tie the game in the eighth.
The Royals recaptured the lead in the bottom half when Moustakas doubled off reliever Phil Coke to plate pinch-runner Lorenzo Cain. Reliever Brayan Villarreal, who gave up a single to Billy Butler, took the loss, his fourth of the season.
Still, to come as close as they did after such a rough performance by their starting pitcher was pretty remarkable, at least in Verlander's opinion.
"A lot of credit goes to those guys, too. I think it's easy for a team -- when the No. 1 guy's out there -- if he gives up runs, it's easy for the team to kind of shut down. But we didn't do that. We battled the whole way and came within inches of having a good chance to win it," he said.