Among the positive developments for last season’s Royals was the ability to stand up to its most frequent opponents, in the Central Division.
The Royals posted a winning record against three of the four foes, including division champion Detroit.
The trend hasn’t carried over, and is working decidedly against the Royals, who fell to the Tigers 9-4 on Sunday.
The outcome completed the Tigers’ three-game sweep against the team that started the weekend with a two-game deficit in the standing. The Royals head to San Diego for a series that begins today a season-high five games back.
At least the Royals avoid Central bullies for a couple of weeks. Their 0-5 record against the Tigers makes them 5-13 against the division and 9-3 against everybody else.
But the Royals weren’t conceding ground to the team that has won the Central each of the last three years.
“It’s still going to be a war,” outfielder Jarrod Dyson said of the Tigers. “It’s not over. They just won the beginning of it, that’s all.”
Sunday’s contest belonged to Tigers start Justin Verlander for six innings. He held the Royals hitless for five innings and seemed to be getting stronger as the game progressed. A third career no-hitter looked possible.
Verlander’s mastery wasn’t the only part of the equation. Royals’ bats had gone stone cold in this series.
After scoring a run in the first inning on Friday, the Royals were outscored 26-7 the rest of the weekend.
The season-long power outage was continuing, but now the Royals couldn’t muster a hit, must less string together a few for a rally.
Finally, with two outs in the sixth, Billy Butler stroked a solid single to right, and the 22,504 at Kauffman Stadium wouldn’t see history. The Royals haven’t been no-hit since the Red Sox’s Jon Lester turned the trick at Fenway in 2008, and only Nolan Ryan, pitching for the Angels in 1973, has no-hit the Royals in Kansas City.
“You’re never not aware of a no-hitter,” Butler said.
No surprise Butler would spoil Verlander’s bid. He entered the game with a .437 lifetime average against one of the game’s top pitchers. Verlander improved to 4-1 this season and is a healthy 17-5 all-time against the Royals.
The Tigers also didn’t get the satisfaction of a shutout after Dyson one-hopped the wall in right for a two-run triple in the seven. He scored on Nori Aoki’s sacrifice fly.
“I didn’t get all of it,” Dyson said. “If I had gotten all of it I’d have been jogging around the bases. There was still a little more in there to get.”
Aoki also drove in a run in the ninth with a single to center. The significance of that tally? It marked the first time this season the Royals lost a game when scoring at least four runs. The Royals had been 14-0 in those games.
But the late effort was nowhere near enough for the Royals, who were steamrolled throughout the series. The Tigers didn’t miss many pitches over the weekend and on Sunday Jason Vargas felt their wrath.
The Tigers got in their hacks in each of Vargas’ five innings and built a 7-0 lead. Nick Castellanos got things started with a second-inning solo home run.
Vargas came close to working out of trouble in the third, but Royals-killer Torii Hunter soft-served a two-out run single for career RBI No. 120 against the Royals.
By the time Miguel Cabrera stroked a two-run double in the fourth, the Tigers were well on their way, but just for good measure, Alex Avila crushed a two-run homer to center in fifth.
“I think they had a lot of things go their way, but at the same they put some good swings on the ball,” Vargas said. “Obviously this isn’t what we wanted to do.”