They had seven scoreless innings from Francisco Liriano, trading zeros with Ian Kennedy in a pitching duel that was the opposite of Thursday's back-and-forth scorefest. They had a go-ahead hit from JaCoby Jones in a two-strike count, a two-run double in the eighth, after he struck out on three pitches in a similar situation in the sixth.
The Tigers had the game set up for a late-inning bullpen that had been surprisingly efficient for most of the season. They ended up with a difficult loss, and a learning experience for a pair of young relievers.
Daniel Stumpf and Joe Jimenez have had a good share of success this season, and both will have more of it as the season rolls on. But some lessons relievers have to learn through adversity, and both got it on Friday.
For Stumpf, it was the all-or-nothing nature of a lefty reliever facing left-handed hitters. For Jimenez, it was a first pitch that shaped the rest of the inning.
"Both of those guys have been good for us," Gardenhire said. "We felt comfortable going to them there. Three lefties in a row, brought in Stumpf and he'd been really good at it. Just didn't work out."
For Gardenhire, the lament wasn't about going with his young arms. It was the debate on whether to send Liriano back out for the eighth. He held the Royals to three singles over seven scoreless innings and was in line for the win after Jones' double, but he sat a while as the Tigers' go-ahead rally came together.
Once Liriano walked leadoff man Cheslor Cuthbert on five pitches, Gardenhire turned to Stumpf for the string of lefty hitters. He had an 0-2 count on Jon Jay and Stumpf threw a slider off the plate that Jay sent through the left side for a single. After a Lucas Duda flyout, Alex Gordon hit a 2-1 slider for a ground ball to the right side that took a high hop on Dixon Machado and went into right field.
"I know how these guys play. I came up in their system," Stumpf said. "They slap balls around when they can. They're never out of a count. And that's what I saw tonight."
That left Jimenez with a bases-loaded jam, including the tying run on second and go-ahead run on first. His first-pitch slider to the backstop not only advanced both, it forced Jimenez to stay out of the dirt with that pitch with the tying run on third.
"That stuff happens," Jimenez said. "It happened in the worst situation. Just trying to make better pitches after that."
An intentional walk to Alcides Escobar again loaded the bases before Whit Merrifield drove a 1-0 fastball to right for a game-tying sacrifice fly.
Jorge Soler entered the night on a nine-game hitting streak but was hitless with a 400-foot flyout to the center-field-wall in the first inning. His ground ball through the left side put Kansas City on top for good.
"I was trying to get the ball out of his path," Jimenez said. "He's hitting well. I just try to make better pitches to him. I got that slider up on him and he got it."
SOUND SMART Liriano has held left-handed hitters to a .088 average this season (3-for-34). The Royals had two of those hits on Friday.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS Before Jones' go-ahead double, Jeimer Candelario hit a ball down the right-field line that a ball boy touched while in play and threw to a fan in the stands, putting Candelario on second with a ground-rule double. The ball boy was dismayed the rest of the inning before first-base umpire Laz Diaz talked to him between innings, patting him on the helmet to pick up his spirits.
HE SAID IT "I've been through ups and downs. Right now, I just need to keep moving forward and come tomorrow with the same attitude to get outs and try to do my best out there." -- Jimenez, on rebounding from outing
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY Gardenhire's first replay challenge since April 25 earned Liriano his third consecutive inning-ending double play. Duda was originally ruled to have beaten Jose Iglesias' throw to first base, but the call was overturned. Gardenhire is now 9-for-10 on challenges this season.
UP NEXT Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (1-0, 5.81 ERA) will start at 4:15 p.m. ET on Saturday as the Tigers take on the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Zimmermann, who is 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA in his career against Kansas City, will be aiming to build on seven scoreless innings from his previous start on Monday against the Rays. Righty Jason Hammel (0-3, 4.91) starts for the Royals. The game is available on FS1 and MLB.TV.