KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It started with a freebie. Not a walk, but a hit batsman to start the eighth inning of a tie game Tuesday night that led to the run that ended the Royals’ season-best winning streak at six games.
Even a new twist at Kauffman Stadium — Rally Sauce — failed to produce the necessary late magic to avoid a 3-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers.
A photo of Rally Sauce was flashed on the Crown Vision video board — a bottle of Billy Butler’s now ubiquitous barbecue sauce — in hopes of igniting an attack that mustered little against Detroit starter Max Scherzer.
A little hot, that sauce, as it turned out. No rally, though.
Joaquin Benoit and José Valverde closed out Scherzer’s victory — the former Missouri All-American is now 9-0 — and evened the three-game series at one victory apiece.
Valverde got his ninth save in 11 chances, but not without some tension.
Salvy Perez opened the ninth with a single through the left side, which brought Elliot Johnson into the game as a pinch runner. Johnson stole second on the first pitch, a ball, to Butler.
Valverde fell behind 3-0 on Butler before battling back to a full count.
Butler then took a borderline third strike, argued strongly and, when he continued the argument from the dugout, finally got ejected by umpire Jordan Baker.
The ejection brought Butler sprinting from the dugout to continue the argument. It didn’t change anything, and the strikeout turned the inning around.
Valverde retired Lorenzo Cain on a pop to short and got David Lough, who earlier hit his first career homer, on a squibber in front of the plate.
Entertaining stuff. But still a loss.
That decisive freebie came from Aaron Crow, who had just bailed Tim Collins out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning. Crow (2-2) started the eighth by hitting Miguel Cabrera with an 0-1 slider.
Prince Fielder followed with a single to right that moved Cabrera, off on the full-count pitch, to third with no outs. Victor Martinez’s sacrifice fly to left produced the go-ahead run.
It was the first run allowed by the Royals bullpen in 22 innings.
Fielder went to second on a wild pitch. A two-out walk to Alex Avila brought J.C. Gutierrez into the game with runners at first and second. Gutierrez stranded both runners, but the Tigers had the lead.
Scherzer permitted just three hits in his seven innings, and all three came in the fifth, when the Royals got a homer from Lough and an RBI single from Alcides Escobar in erasing a 2-0 deficit.
Royals starter Wade Davis got a no-decision after holding the Tigers to two runs and eight hits in 6 2/3 innings. He exited after yielding a single to Omar Infante.
That was Davis’ 100th pitch, and it prompted manager Ned Yost to go to the bullpen for Collins. The Tigers countered by sending up Avasail Garcia for Don Kelly to avoid a lefty-on-lefty matchup.
Garcia punched an 0-2 fastball up the middle for a single that moved Infante to third.
That led to another pinch hitter: Matt Tuiasosopo for Andy Dirks, again to avoid a lefty-on-lefty matchup. A walk loaded the bases and brought Crow in to face Torii Hunter.
Crow struck out Hunter — huge at the time; not so huge an inning later.
The loss dropped the Royals to 6 1/2 games behind first-place Detroit in the American League Central Division.
The Tigers opened the scoring after Davis surrendered two bloop singles in the second — Martinez opened the inning with one and went to second on Infante’s two-out flare.
That turned into a run when Kelly served a double into left.
Martinez scored easily, but an Alex Gordon-to-Mike Moustakas relay cut down Infante at the plate. Somehow, Kelly received credit only for a single. All that mattered was the Tigers settled for a 1-0 lead.
The bottom of the order got Davis in trouble again in the fifth when one-out singles by Infante and Kelly put runners at first and third, which led to a run when Dirks outraced a potential double-play grounder to second.
The Royals answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Lough led off with a 391-foot drive to right for the first home run by a Royals’ left-handed hitter since Moustakas in the sixth inning of an 11-6 loss to the Yankees on May 10.
Moustakas followed with a single to left and went to second on Chris Getz’s sacrifice. Escobar tied the game with a single to left, although he was thrown out by Dirks in trying to stretch it into a double.
That was it, though.