KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Justin Verlander beat Kansas City once again, surviving a shaky ninth inning Monday night to deliver the Detroit Tigers a 3-2 victory over the Royals.
Austin Jackson hit a leadoff homer and Brandon Inge added a two-run shot in the fifth for the Tigers, giving their reigning AL Cy Young winner enough support when things got tight.
Verlander (1-1) allowed an RBI single by Humberto Quintero with two outs in the ninth, and then loaded the bases when he walked Mitch Maier and plunked Alcides Escobar on the elbow. Verlander came back to strike out Alex Gordon looking, sending the Royals to their fifth consecutive loss.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland had closer Jose Valverde warming up in the ninth, but he decided to stick with the AL MVP even after things got tense. Verlander ended up throwing 131 pitches while improving to 14-2 in his career against the Royals.
Danny Duffy (1-1) did his best to hang tough against Verlander, keeping the Tigers' potent lineup at bay most of the game. He allowed three runs on seven hits and a walk in 6 1-3 innings.
Jackson staked the Tigers to an early lead when he hit a 3-1 pitch from Duffy into the seats in left field, his second of the season and the fifth leadoff homer of his career.
Detroit nearly added to the lead when Brennan Boesch singled and Miguel Cabrera worked a walk. But slugger Prince Fielder grounded into a double play and Delmon Young flied out, ending the threat and keeping Kansas City within striking distance.
Gordon eventually matched the run when he doubled in the bottom half of the inning, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Billy Butler's base hit.
Verlander changed speeds and took advantage of the corners to flummox the young Kansas City lineup. Verlander retired 11 straight between the first and fifth innings, and after running into a spot of trouble, came back to set the Royals down in order in the sixth. He struck out nine overall.
Of course, his dominance was nothing new to folks in Kansas City.
The right-hander has made a mockery of the Royals in recent years, especially at Kauffman Stadium, where he improved to 9-2 and has allowed only 18 earned runs in 88 1-3 innings.
He finally had something to show for his third consecutive strong start. Verlander took the loss in a 4-2 defeat to Tampa Bay, when he allowed four runs over 8 1-3 innings, and received no-decision despite allowing a pair of hits over eight scoreless innings against Boston.
Duffy did his best to make it another fruitless outing.
The young left-hander, who went six scoreless innings against Oakland his first time out, used his overpowering fastball to blow through most of the Detroit lineup. Alex Avila struck out twice against Duffy, and Fielder and Cabrera also went down at the plate.
His only major mistakes were to Jackson in the first inning and Inge in the fifth.
They were the only mistakes that Verlander needed.
NOTES: Gordon, who was made spokesman for the All-Star FanFest later this summer, earned a round of applause with a face-planting grab on a sinking fly ball to LF in the fifth inning. ... Detroit LHP Drew Smyly takes the mound Tuesday night against LHP Bruce Chen.