KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Let's not overstate this. Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera are All-Star talents who don't just beat up on the Royals. But, boy, they do beat up on the Royals.
So it was nothing new Saturday night when Verlander pitched seven shutout innings before weakening in the eighth. By then, Detroit had a four-run lead in what finished as a 4-2 victory at Kauffman Stadium.
Similarly, it was no surprise that Cabrera supplied the game's first run — and the only run surrendered in seven innings by Luke Hochevar — on a two-out homer in the sixth. Say this: It wasn't a cheapie. The drive measured 417 feet to left field.
Cabrera's rocket was the only blemish on an otherwise masterly performance by Hochevar. The Tigers put the game away with three two-out runs in the eighth inning against rookie reliever Blake Wood.
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That burst against Wood, who had permitted two runs in his previous 11 outings, soon proved decisive. The Royals scored twice in their eighth and had the tying runs on base before Tigers closer Jose Valverde snuffed out the budding comeback.
It marked a bit of revenge for Valverde, whose only stumble this season in 24 appearances came April 7 at Kansas City in an extra-inning inning loss. That was so long ago that Rick Ankiel delivered a key double in the winning rally.
Valverde closed out the victory for his 12th save in 13 chances.
Verlander improved to 6-4 overall while extending his success against the Royals to 10-2 with a 2.58 ERA in 16 career starts. That includes 6-2 and 1.81 in 10 appearances at the K.
Cabrera started the three-run knockout punch against Wood with a two-out single in the eighth. He owns a .358 average in 46 career games against the Royals with 14 homers and 41 RBIs.
Hochevar (5-4) yielded just one run and six hits in seven innings while striking out a season-high 10 and walking two. He threw 109 pitches.
The 10 strikeouts were the most this season by any Royals pitcher — Zack Greinke had eight on two occasions — and tied three other pitchers for the most this season against the Tigers.
The last Royals pitcher to strike out at least 10 in a loss won't surprise you. It was Greinke, who had 10 on July 24, 2009 in a 2-0 loss at Texas.
The Royals chased Verlander in the eighth when Jason Kendall led off with a double and moved to third on a single by David DeJesus. Reliever Joel Zumaya loaded the bases with a four-pitch walk to Billy Butler.
Two straight balls to Jose Guillen brought a visit to the mound from the trainer along with manager Jim Leyland. Zumaya exited after a brief examination. In came Phil Coke.
Guillen pulled a 3-1 pitch into left for an RBI single, and Alberto Callaspo's grounder to first turned into a run-scoring fielder's choice.
That made it 4-2 with one out and runners at first and third. It also brought Valverde into the game with a streak of 22 consecutive scoreless appearances. He quickly ended the inning by getting Mike Aviles to ground into a double play.
The lost dropped the Royals to 23-34 and cost them a chance to edge past Chicago for third place in the American League Central Division. The three-game series is tied 1-1 heading into Sunday afternoon's finale.
The Royals trailed just 1-0 when Wood replaced Hochevar to start the eighth inning. Wood retired the first two hitters before Cabrera singled to center and moved to second on a wild pitch.
Brennan Boesch drew a walk before Carlos Guillen unloaded a two-run double to center. Brandon Inge followed with an RBI single to right for a 4-0 lead.
Neither team scored until Cabrera launched his no-doubt drive with two outs in the sixth. It was his 17th homer of the season and ninth in his last 13 games.