Justin had retired the side in order to begin each of his first 2 starts. The Royals led MLB in doubles versus RHP in 2011 and Gordon doubled on a changeup to start the KC first. Both sides appeared to be anticipating a low-scoring affair as Getz sacrificed and the Tigers played the infield in as Verlander, pitching carefully, walked Hosmer. JV was the best in MLB last year (68%) at keeping the run off the board with a man at 3rd and less than 2 outs. Butler, however, blooped a single to right and Verlander's shutout was gone after 4 batters. After that, Justin retired 11 straight before facing a 2nd and 3rd, 1 out, situation in the 5th after 2 singles and a double steal. This time, Justin struck out Gordon to leave the runners in place. He followed by retiring Getz to end the threat and leave opponent batters 0-for-22 against him with 2 outs this year. Justin was efficient in retiring 9 of the next 10 to force a management decision on whether to bring him back for the 9th after 104 pitches.
Duffy has good stuff, but he has a tendency to groove the fastball when he gets behind as evidenced by a .544 opponent slugging last year in counts favoring the batter. In his 3 starts against Detroit last year, he held the Tigers to a .246 average but 10 of the 15 Detroit hits went for extra bases. In the 1st, Austin homered on a grooved 3-1 fastball to give the Tigers a quick lead. But Duffy settled down and the score was still 1-1 when Peralta led off the 5th with his second double. It's been said that trying to get a fastball by Inge is like trying to sneak a sunbeam by an intoxicated rooster. Duffy tried it in the 5th but Brandon crushed a monstrous 2-run big fly to center to give Verlander a 3-1 lead. Overall the Tigers managed 7 hits against Duffy with 4 going for extras. The Tigers averaged exactly 3 runs in Justin's 3 starts against KC last year, all wins, and would manage only 3 tonight.
Leyland elected to send JV back out for the 9th with the 3-1 lead. Butler singled but the next 2 hitters bounced out leaving Justin on the verge of redemption for his failure in the 9th against the Rays his last time out. But when Quintero singled to make it 3-2, I suspected Verlander was done with Maier, who already had 2 hits, coming up. But Leyland stuck with his man. Maier walked moving the tying run into scoring position. And Leyland stuck with his man. Escobar was hit by a pitch moving the tying run to 3rd and the winning run to 2nd. Coke was ready. Gordon, a career .233 hitter versus LHP with much more success against righties, had started the game with a double. He could now end it and add another heartbreaking loss to Justin's season with anything that might roll through the infield or land on grass in the outfield. The names Grady Little and Pedro Martinez came to mind. And Leyland stuck with his man. Verlander fell behind 2-1 throwing the 100 mph fastball that had failed him in the 9th his last time out. Then he threw a tremendous 2-1 changeup to even the count. Gordon, now not sure what to look for, took the next 100 mph fastball for strike three.