"It's hard to complain about a game like that," manager Jim Leyland said after Monday night's 3-2 loss. "A kid made a great effort for a ball and it didn't work out."
Whatever the case, the Tigers have to feel like their batch of recent close losses on the road is getting overdone.
No Major League team has more home wins than Detroit this year, and no American League club has a better home record than the Tigers' 22-10 mark. However, no other division-leading team has a losing record on the road.
Monday's loss dropped Detroit to 13-17 away from Comerica Park. Only the reigning World Series champion San Francisco Giants (12-18) have a worse road mark among teams with winning records. Six of the Tigers' 17 road losses have been by one runs, with five more by two.
They're hitting .302 with an .825 OPS at home, and .279 with a .791 OPS on the road.
Before the game, Leyland pointed out the abundance of close games when asked why road success proves so elusive for his team. Monday provided another close loss, maybe closer than the ball that scored two Royals runs and set up the go-ahead tally.
Salvador Perez's liner was close enough that both center fielder Avisail Garcia and right fielder Torii Hunter thought they had a play on it. They were headed towards the same spot until Hunter saw the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Garcia diving directly at him.
The center fielder has priority on balls in the gap. Garcia wasn't calling Hunter off, but his intent was clear.
"As an ex-center fielder, [I know] if you see me coming, get out of the way," said Hunter, a nine-time Gold Glove winner in center field with the Twins and Angels. "So, I saw him running full speed. He didn't say anything, and he took off diving. I said, 'Oh,' and jumped out of the way.
"That's his ball, and he wants that. He has a right to do it, and I have to get out of the way."
Hunter was considered a big center fielder at 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds. Garcia, a potential five-tool prospect, is listed at 6-4, 240. Even if Garcia didn't have priority, he had the size advance.
"Can you imagine? I'm not gonna die," Hunter said. "Let him have it."
Though the Tigers view Garcia's future as a corner outfielder, he has the speed and Minor League experience to handle center.
Garcia certainly has the aggressiveness. On this one, his aggressiveness might have gotten the better of him. He was diving, but so was the ball, skirting under his glove.
"He probably shouldn't have dove," Hunter said. "Usually, when a righty hits the ball to right-center and stays inside the ball, it fades back to the right fielder. But he's 21. He'll figure it out."
It wasn't clear on replay whether Hunter had a chance to back up the play had he peeled off sooner. Though the ball went under Garcia's outstretched glove, it was out of Hunter's reach.
"Both guys broke for it, and it didn't turn out too good," Leyland said. "But you can't fault somebody for an effort like that."
By the time Hunter ran down the ball at the fence, Alcides Escobar had scored from third, and Eric Hosmer was on his way to scoring from first. Escobar likely would have scored anyway. The extra bases meant Hosmer's run, but also set up Perez for the go-ahead run two batters later on Lorenzo Cain's infield single.
It was an aggressive read by Perez as well.
"As soon he slid, I thought I had a chance to make it to third base," Perez said. "I looked around at second and saw Torii Hunter had the ball and I kept going."
That was it for the Royals' scoring. Between 6 1/3 solid innings from starter Jeremy Guthrie, a couple of timely escapes from Kansas City's formidable bullpen and seemingly no shortage of timely catches, Miguel Cabrera's two-run homer comprised all of Detroit's offense.
Cabrera followed Hunter's one-out double in the third inning by sending a 1-0 pitch into the left-field power alley for his 18th home run -- two off of Chris Davis' American League lead -- and league-leading 69th RBI on the season. Only Cleveland's Progressive Field has given up more homers to Cabrera as a visiting player; his 11th at Kauffman Stadium ties it with Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field.
The run support doomed Detroit starter Doug Fister (5-4), who delivered eight innings with no walks and three strikeouts. But if the Tigers' road struggles have become a pattern, so have their woes plating runs for Fister.
While Fister is winless in his last five starts, the Tigers have scored four runs combined in his last four outings. He has allowed nine earned runs on 28 hits over 30 1/3 innings in that stretch, good for a 2.67 ERA, with three walks and 26 strikeouts.
For someone who says repeatedly he pitches every game like it's scoreless, Fister is not far off from his recent reality.
"They put two runs on the board for me, and I couldn't keep it," Fister said. "I need to do a better job of keeping them from scoring."
His teammates weren't buying it.
"Man, I feel so bad for him. He's been pitching his butt off," Hunter said. "We just can't get a win for him right now. He keeps going out there, he keeps chucking the ball. Eventually, we're going to get something going for him."
Or as Hunter later summarized, "Great guy, great effort, offense stinks."