DETROIT -- The Tigers returned from a nightmare of a West Coast trip and regained their winning ways in the friendly surroundings of the American League Central. Jose Cabrera's three-run homer and center fielder Michael Mahtook's fine catch at the wall helped Justin Verlander rebound from a Royals rally in
DETROIT -- The Tigers returned from a nightmare of a West Coast trip and regained their winning ways in the friendly surroundings of the American League Central. Jose Cabrera's three-run homer and center fielder Michael Mahtook's fine catch at the wall helped Justin Verlander rebound from a Royals rally in the first inning, sending Detroit to a 5-3 win on Tuesday night at Comerica Park.
The win improved the Tigers to 17-11 against AL Central opponents this season, including 3-1 against the Royals. Detroit is 17-31 outside of the division, which built the hole it's trying to escape, but Tuesday's series opener began a stretch of 20 division games in 26 contests.
"Two in a row, I don't know if that's a streak, but it's a start," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said.
Five consecutive hits to start the game put the Royals in position to take control early, but Verlander (5-4) limited the damage and retired 17 of his next 20 batters. J.D. Martinez chipped into the lead with a second-inning solo homer off Royals starter Matt Strahm (2-5) before Cabrera's ninth home run of the year put Detroit in front for good in the third.
"If you're going to get to Verlander," Royals manager Ned Yost said, "you got to get to him early. We got his pitch count way up [29 pitches in the first inning] and we had some more chances, but he just settled in."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Miggy happy returns: Cabrera entered Tuesday mired in a 4-for-30 slump over his previous eight games, but he has usually found his better form against the Royals in his career. His third-inning opposite-field line drive was his 26th career home run off Kansas City pitching, and his first homer off a lefty this season.
"I didn't think it was a bad pitch," Strahm said. "It was outside, a little up. But that's why he's one of the greatest hitters ever."
Mahtook's mad dash: Though Perez has generally owned Verlander in his career -- 23-for-55 lifetime -- he has no such claim on spacious Comerica Park. His fifth-inning loft to right-center field would've been a home run in most other ballparks, but Mahtook ran it down, crashing into the center-field wall to make the final out of the inning. More >
"He made a great play," Perez said. "But this is like the only park that's an out. That's the way it goes."
"I don't think anyone in this clubhouse has written us off. Same thing happened last year. We lost 11 of 12 in May and people started writing us off then. But baseball's a funny game. Sometimes you need a wakeup call. Sometimes you can ride out highs for a while." -- James McCann
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Mahtook's catch was the 10th out recorded on a ball projected to travel 400 or more feet at Comerica Park this season, according to Statcast™. That matches the league-leading total of 400-foot outs at the Royals' home park of Kauffman Stadium.
In the Tigers' sixth with a runner on first and none out, Jose Iglesias sent a grounder to third baseman Mike Moustakas, who threw to second for a forceout. Iglesias also was called out on the relay to first. The Tigers challenged and the call was overturned in 33 seconds.
Royals: Right-hander Ian Kennedy (1-6, 4.95 ERA) will start the middle game of this series vs. the Tigers on Wednesday at 6:10 p.m. CT. Kennedy gave up two earned runs over 4 2/3 innings on Wednesday against the Red Sox and received a no-decision in a game the Royals rallied to win, 6-4.
Tigers: Left-hander Daniel Norris (4-5, 4.66) will try for his first win in six career starts against the Royals on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. ET in the middle game of this series at Comerica Park. Norris pitched five innings in a no-decision last month in Kansas City.
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Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.
Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB.