KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) – Most starting pitchers would gladly take a 10-7 record and 3.69 ERA after 21 starts.
Those numbers, however, belong to Justin Verlander, and the expectations are higher for the five-time Detroit Tigers All-Star and 2011 AL Cy Young Award winner.
The right-hander was roughed up for six runs, five earned, on eight hits and four walks in 5 2-3 innings in a 6-5 loss Saturday night to the Kansas City Royals.
“I would say over the course of the season up to this point, and there’s still a lot of season left, his performance hasn’t been quite as consistent as in the past,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “It’s just not what you expect of him, which is a little unfair because of what you expect of him.”
“He just wasn’t sharp. It looks to me like he’s pitching a little like he’s not throwing with confidence in his stuff. He just wasn’t real sharp with anything. He was pitching behind the hitters, putting himself in a position where he just didn’t want to give in and it ended up hurting him. He just didn’t have a Justin Verlander-type game. These things happen.”
But rarely against the Royals. Verlander had not lost to the Royals since Sept. 9, 2009, but gave up six runs, five earned, on eight hits and four walks in 5 2-3 innings. It was the seventh time in 21 starts that Verlander failed to make it into the sixth inning.
“It’s been a see-saw battle,” Verlander said of his season. “I haven’t been able to find it. I’m trying to find that consistency. In this game I had a couple opportunities where I was starting to find it and it just went right back to not having it.
“They go out and score five runs and that should be more than enough.”
Salvador Perez drove in three runs and Mike Moustakas went 3 for 4 with a game-winning home run.
Moustakas homered to right in the fifth to snap a 5-5 tie.
“His stuff wasn’t that bad,” said Tigers catcher Alex Avila, who went 3 for 4 and drove in a pair of runs. “He got behind a few guys. They had a good game plan and had some tough at-bats. You can’t keep getting behind guys and giving free passes. You want to make them earn it.”
Perez drove in a run in the first with a sacrifice fly and stroked a two-run double in the third.
Jeremy Guthrie (9-7) picked up the victory, surrendering five runs on 10 hits and two walks in six innings.
Aaron Crow, the fourth of five Kansas City pitchers, pitched out of danger in the eighth inning. Alex Avila led off with a single, his third hit, and pinch hitter Don Kelly walked. After Austin Jackson bunted them both over, Crow retired Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera on ground balls to third base to strand them.
Greg Holland worked the ninth to collect his 24th save in 26 chances, although he yielded a one-out double to Victor Martinez.
Prince Fielder and Martinez stroked RBI-singles in the first as the Tigers jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
The Royals seized a 5-3 lead in the fourth when Chris Getz brought home a run with a fielder’s choice grounder, while Verlander walked Eric Hosmer with the bases loaded.
Avila drove in two runs with a two-out fifth inning single to tie the score at 5-all.
Getz, who was recalled Friday from Triple-A Omaha, sustained a mild medial sprain of his left knee in the fifth inning while trying to field Fielder’s smash grounder. He was replaced by Elliot Johnson.
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)