Max Scherzer was never able to find the strike zone.
Scherzer gave up four runs and six hits, including Johnny Giavotella's first big league home run, in five innings of the Detroit Tigers' 4-3 loss to the Royals.
Scherzer did not come back out after a 46-minute rain delay in the top of the sixth.
"It was one of those outings where I got out there and fell behind and made some mistakes and they made me pay for it," Scherzer said. "And then there were some pitches where I was able to locate it but they were able to hit it."
In his three previous starts against the Royals, Scherzer (11-7) was 3-0 with a 0.89 ERA, allowing two runs in 20 1-3 innings.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Scherzer "has to get ahead more often" in the count.
"If he doesn't get ahead, he has to throw something besides his fastball when he gets behind," Leyland said. "Sometimes pitchers get frustrated when they don't make the pitch they want to make. And then sometimes they get frustrated when they make the pitch and it gets blooped in."
Giavotella, who was promoted Friday after hitting .338 in 110 games with Triple-A Omaha, went 5 for 11 in the series.
Royals left-hander Bruce Chen (6-5) gave up three runs on five hits in five-plus innings, while striking out five — three in the first inning — and no walks to pick up his first victory since July 6. He allowed three hits to start the three-run sixth, when there was a 46-minute rain delay. Rookie right-hander Louis Coleman replaced Chen after play resumed.
Giavotella led off the three-run fourth with a double, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Billy Butler's groundout. Mitch Maier's triple scored Eric Hosmer, who singled. Brayan Pena's two-out single brought home Maier.
Giavotella homered to left on a 2-1 pitch by Scherzer in the fifth.
"He's a hard-nosed player," Leyland said. "He's impressive, but he's not the only one. They've got some impressive players all over."
"Chen's kind of a different pitcher, kind of a slow-throwing lefty, but he can fool you," Dirks said. "When he throws 90, it looks like 100."
Joakim Soria worked the ninth for his 21st save in 27 opportunities.
Alex Gordon was credited with a Royals' record 18th outfield assist in the fourth inning when Cabrera was out trying to stretch a single into a double. Jermaine Dye in 2001 and Mark Teahen in 2007 shared the record with 17 outfield assists.
Royals right-fielder Jeff Francoeur threw out Jhonny Peralta, who attempted to go from first to third on an Alex Avila single in the seventh, giving the Royals outfielders 40 assists, which tops the majors. Francoeur leads all big league outfielders with 93 assists since he debuted in 2005.
NOTES: Gordon was ejected for the first time in his career in the eighth by plate umpire Rob Drake after throwing his bat when he was called out on strikes. Manager Ned Yost, too, was ejected after a lengthy argument. OF Melky Cabrera, who left in the fourth inning Saturday with a left ankle sprain, did not start, but came in the ninth to play left after Gordon's ejection. Tigers DH Victor Martinez, who injured his left knee in the eighth inning Saturday, did not play Sunday. He could return Tuesday at Cleveland with the Tigers off Monday. RHP Jose Valverde has converted 32 consecutive saves. That matches the longest streak in one season in Tigers history. Guillermo Hernandez logged 32 consecutive saves in 1984. RHP Luke Hochevar, who starts Monday at Tampa Bay, has won his past three Royals starts and is 4-0 in his past seven starts, matching his career longest winning streak.