KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Danny Duffy got another lesson in major league pitching Saturday night.
The 22-year-old left-hander made his 14th big league start against Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander. Duffy knew he would have to keep the scoring down to have a chance, but he promptly walked two in the first inning and allowed both to score. The Tigers went on to beat the Kansas City Royals 4-3.
``I didn't' have very good command,' Duffy said. ``I didn't do my job. I didn't locate very well. I'm really frustrated with myself right now. I didn't keep my team in the game. ``
Verlander (16-5) lasted seven innings despite some balky defense behind him to win his fifth straight start and move into a tie with CC Sabathia for the major league lead in wins. The big-right hander also improved to 13-2 in his career against Kansas City, allowing just three runs on five hits with eight strikeouts.
Duffy (3-4), meanwhile, needed 37 pitches just to get through the first inning.
``I thought I threw some good pitches,' he said. ``They were off the plate. I wasn't nibbling. I wasn't trying to make a perfect pitch. I didn't locate as well as I normally do. That's going to happen when you fall behind in the count as much as I did today. The pitch count is going to get up.
``They only had five hits, but three walks,' he said. ``That's eight base runners right there. That's not acceptable. We didn't win the game. I'm upset. I'm kicking myself over the whole start.'
Joaquin Benoit pitched out of a jam in the eighth for Detroit, and Jose Valverde converted his 32nd straight save to start the season, matching the club record set by AL MVP Willie Hernandez in 1984.
Victor Martinez drove in a pair of runs before getting hurt, and Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez had the other RBIs for the AL Central-leading Tigers. They'll go for the series sweep on Sunday.
The Royals were trailing 4-1 in the seventh when an error by Ryan Raburn gave them hope.
Raburn had just moved from third base to right field to start the inning. Eric Hosmer singled with one out and Jeff Francoeur doubled down the right-field line. Raburn's throw overshot second base by a wide margin, allowing Hosmer to score. Weak-hitting Brayan Pena's two-out double moments later drew Kansas City within 4-3.
The unflappable Verlander bounced back to get Alcides Escobar on a weak foul popup down the third-base line, preserving the Tigers' one-run lead. Escobar promptly spiked his bat in frustration.
``I didn't feel great, didn't have great control of my curveball,' Verlander said. ``I was kind of able to get a little feel in the fourth, fifth, sixth inning. A couple hits in the seventh, one big hit by Pena, and next thing I know the tying run is on second base. Luckily I was able to get through it with the lead.'
Verlander got off to an inauspicious start when Alex Gordon sent his first pitch screaming toward the outfield wall. Austin Jackson ranged back and leaped to make the catch in the deepest part of the ballpark, at the very least robbing Gordon of extra bases and quite possibly preventing a leadoff home run.
``Talk about a catch,' Royals manager Ned Yost said. ``That could be the best catch I've seen all year.'
Verlander settled into a groove, and the only damage the Royals could muster against him through the first six innings came in the fifth, when Francoeur belted his 15th homer of the season.
Detroit got its first two runs in the first inning, when Duffy issued back-to-back one-out walks and Cabrera followed with a double to right. The shaky start brought pitching coach Bob McClure to the mound, but it sure didn't do much good. Martinez lined the very next pitch up the middle for an RBI single.
The Tigers made it 3-0 in the third when Cabrera doubled and Martinez singled, then answered Francoeur's homer in the seventh. Alex Avila singled off Blake Wood, and Jackson reached first base when Wood threw the ball away on a soft grounder to the mound. Brennan Boesch moved the runners up and Ordonez hit an RBI groundout.
Notes: Royals CF Melky Cabrera left in the fourth inning with a left ankle sprain. He's unlikely to play Sunday. .Martinez left late in the game with a left knee sprain and will be evaluated Sunday. Tigers manager Jim Leyland did not believe it was serious. ... Max Scherzer (11-6) starts the series finale for Detroit. Bruce Chen (5-5) goes for Kansas City. ... Bubba Starling was a no-show for Nebraska's first football practice Saturday. The Royals picked the outfielder fifth overall in June, but he's yet to sign while considering college football. Baseball's signing deadline is Aug. 15. .Royals DH Billy Butler went 0 for 4 to snap his season-high 11-game hitting streak.
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