The ball left Justin Verlander's hand, and Mike Aviles knew right away he had no chance, so he simply watched the breaking ball drop over the outside corner of the plate and then flung his bat away in exasperation.
"Why even try and swing?" Aviles said. "That's just the way it went."
Verlander made an impressive bid to become the second pitcher to throw back-to-back no-hitters before allowing an RBI triple to Kansas City's Melky Cabrera in the sixth inning of Detroit's 3-1 victory Friday night.
In his first start since throwing a no-hitter at Toronto on Saturday, Verlander pitched 5 2-3 hitless innings before Cabrera sent a line drive to the gap in right-center field. Verlander was trying to equal Cincinnati's Johnny Vander Meer, who threw two straight no-hitters in 1938.
Verlander (4-3) settled for another outstanding outing, allowing a run on two hits and three walks in eight innings. He struck out seven.
"What's really unfair to the hitters ... he does such a good job of staying at 93, 94 early on," Kansas City's Jeff Francoeur said. "About the fifth, sixth, seventh, he starts to rev it up to 98, 99. I'm up ahead on the count, 2-1, you just see nasty curveballs drop in. It's just tough."
Jose Valverde pitched the ninth for his ninth save.
Austin Jackson and Jhonny Peralta hit solo homers for the Tigers off Luke Hochevar (3-4).
Verlander took the mound looking as calm as he did last weekend in Toronto. He retired the first three batters he faced before walking Billy Butler to start the second inning. He didn't allow another baserunner until the sixth.
"If I can maintain this rhythm, the stuff I've got right now, it's going to be pretty tough for hitters," Verlander said.
When Aviles grounded out to end the top of the fifth, the crowd behind the Detroit dugout gave Verlander a standing ovation as he walked back. He was more than halfway to another no-hitter.
He then struck out Matt Treanor to start the sixth. After a walk to Alcides Escobar and a groundout by Chris Getz, Cabrera finally hit a ball nobody could reach. Right fielder Brennan Boesch had no chance to make a play, and the crowd gave Verlander a standing ovation as he composed himself before facing the next hitter.
"He threw me a changeup," Cabrera said through a translator. "He left it up, and I was able to hit it good."
Verlander got another standing ovation after striking out Alex Gordon to end the inning — and then another one when Aviles was caught looking to end the seventh on that breaking pitch.
"I saw it out of his hand — saw it good — but there was nothing I could do with it," Aviles said.
Treanor led off the eighth with a double that eluded a diving Boesch, but Verlander retired the next three hitters easily before leaving after 105 pitches.
Jackson led off the bottom of the first with a line drive over the wall in left-center, and Alex Avila drove in a run in the second with a groundball. Peralta's homer in the fourth made it 3-0.
Hochevar went six innings, allowing seven hits. He walked three — one intentionally — and struck out three.
NOTES: The Tigers have won six straight. ... Detroit's Victor Martinez extended his hitting streak to 12 games. ... Jackson was thrown out at the plate in the third, trying to score from second on a single to right. ... The Royals finished with three hits a night after they had a season-best 16 in an 11-5 win in New York.