KANSAS CITY -- One of the biggest challenges Justin Verlander placed on himself over his dozen years in the Tigers rotation was the shutdown inning. If Detroit put up a big inning for him, Verlander felt his most important inning was the one immediately after that, to send down the side in order and get his team back in the batter's box.
Verlander's gone from the Tigers, but the importance of the shutdown inning remains. As manager Ron Gardenhire surveyed the damage from Thursday's 10-6 loss to the Royals, the search for that inning on a tired and taxed pitching staff was among his bigger laments.
The Tigers tied the game twice with two-run innings in the third and fifth, only to give up two-run frames in the bottom half. Detroit and Kansas City scored the same number of runs from the second through the fifth innings and scored in every inning from the third the through the sixth.
"Every time we scored, the bottom half we couldn't get a shutdown inning," Gardenhire said. "And that's never a good sign. When you score, you need a shutdown inning, and we couldn't get it. That's the way it went. They swung the bats really well. We struggled on the mound."
The struggles seemed to come back around for Tigers starter Mike Fiers. Twelve days after he beat the Royals despite 10 hits and no strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings, Kansas City turned six hits into five runs. Some of the hits were hard-luck. Others were just hit hard.
Fiers fell behind in the first inning when a Lucas Duda ground ball up the middle hit second base and hopped over shortstop Jose Iglesias into center field. For every Tigers rally from there, the Royals had an answer.
Jeimer Candelario doubled in two runs in the third inning with a loft that sent left fielder Jonathan Jay spinning before the ball bounced off his glove. Salvador Perez answered in the bottom half with a two-run homer to left.
After James McCann singled in a run in the top of the fourth, Fiers battled Cheslor Cuthbert for 11 pitches to get a leadoff flyout. Alex Gordon jumped Fiers' next pitch and sent it 422 feet to right field.
"I came back with a first-pitch changeup for a strike, and he was sitting on it," Fiers said. "Guys were swinging early and often. That's what they did to me last game, but I made a little bit better pitches last game. Give credit to them. After that long at-bat, [Gordon] wasn't waiting for me to throw another strike."
Fiers induced just two swings-and-misses out of 66 pitches. His lone strikeout was a called third strike on Duda after Perez's homer. On a day when the Tigers needed innings, having relied on their bullpen for six innings in Wednesday's 12th-inning win, Fiers lasted just four, and the few fresh relievers struggled from there.
Nicholas Castellanos homered in a two-run fifth, but Jorge Soler greeted reliever Chad Bell with a Statcast-projected 441-foot homer to left as part of a two-run bottom half. Duda's two-run single off Warwick Saupold in the sixth put Kansas City into double digits.
The Tigers produced their offense with very little contribution from Jose Cabrera, a last-minute insertion back into Detroit's lineup after missing the previous three games following a left biceps spasm. He went hitless in his first three three at-bats before squaring up a ball that ricocheted off Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar for a one-out single in the fourth. Though Cabrera advanced to scoring position on Castellanos' RBI single, he strained his right hamstring and was lifted for pinch-runner Niko Goodrum.
• Miggy strains hamstring in return to lineup
Fiers has allowed two home runs in three of his five starts this season. Those homers have accounted for eight of the 18 runs against him.
BELL OPTIONED TO MINORS
The Tigers optioned Bell to Triple-A Toledo after the game. The 29-year-old left-hander allowed five runs over 1 2/3 innings on Thursday in relief of Fiers.
Francisco Liriano (3-1, 3.38 ERA) tries to continue his winning ways as the series continues with an 8:15 p.m. ET contest on Friday at Kauffman Stadium. The lefty has a win and a no-decision in two meetings with the Royals already this season, striking out nine batters over 12 innings with four runs allowed. Ian Kennedy (1-3, 3.48) will start for Kansas City.