KANSAS CITY -- If he had it to do over again, Justin Verlander insisted he would throw the same pitch that Salvador Perez crushed for a go-ahead two-run homer in the Royals' 4-3 win over the Tigers on Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Tie game, runner at second and two outs in the sixth inning. Verlander wanted to go down and in to Perez with a quality fastball. The Tigers' right-hander executed, but the Royals' catcher simply executed to a high degree.
The 407-foot homer by Perez, which easily cleared the left-field wall, put the Royals up 4-2 and the Tigers couldn't muster enough offense to catch up.
"It was 98 [mph], it was down and it was in," Verlander said. "It was a good pitch, but he was able to get the barrel on it. Sometimes, you have to tip your cap. These guys are the best hitters in the world. Occasionally, they are going to hit well-executed pitches. It doesn't happen too often. Most of the time, when you execute the pitch that you want, they might find a hole for a base hit but it's not going to do damage necessarily. Looking back on it, I wouldn't throw a different pitch."
If the Tigers' offense had been a little more potent, that one blow by Perez might not have proven so costly. One night after ringing up 26 hits, Detroit managed just five in the loss. The Tigers had early chances to get separation with Kansas City starter Danny Duffy walking five and lasting just 4 1/3 innings because of the command issues. But the Tigers couldn't deliver the big blow and Kansas City was able to even the series at one game apiece.
"Duffy was a little wild and that's what we were hoping for," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "We had some opportunities but really didn't take advantage of it."
With Cleveland's win over the Mets, the Tigers' lead in the American League Central shrunk to 5 1/2 games. Although it was the Perez homer in the sixth that proved decisive, momentum began shifting in the fifth when the Royals, trailing 2-1, got the tying run on a Jarrod Dyson walk, a stolen base and an RBI single by Alcides Escobar.
The Tigers had a pitchout working as the speedy Dyson broke for second, but catcher Bryan Pena dropped the ball as he was preparing to make his throw.
"[Dyson] is a guy you want to keep off the basepaths," Verlander said. "Hindsight is 20-20. I wasn't trying to walk him."
The Tigers trimmed their deficit to 4-3 in the seventh on a Miguel Cabrera RBI single. That left two on for Prince Fielder, but Fielder flied to right against reliever Luke Hochevar. The Tigers went down in order in the eighth and in the ninth against closer Greg Holland.
One individual silver lining came in the fifth when rookie left fielder Nick Castellanos got his first Major League hit and wound up scoring the run that temporarily push Detroit ahead, 2-1. Castellanos hit a ball off the end of the bat to the right side and second baseman Emilio Bonifacio made a quick flip to first baseman Eric Hosmer as Castellanos was flashing by. Hosmer couldn't hold onto the throw and Castellanos no longer had to worry about breaking the ice in the hit category.
Castellanos and Hosmer were high school teammates in Florida.
"He jokingly said 'chalk up your first hit to me.' Then, he congratulated me," Castellanos said.
Castellanos just wished his first Major League hit had come during a win.
"You can't solely focus on your individual accomplishments," Castellanos said. "This isn't just a regular September callup. We're trying to clinch [a playoff spot] as fast as possible."
Although Verlander has had some strong outings, in the season series the Royals have managed to win in all five of his starts against them.
"They've all been nip-and-tuck tight games," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We've managed to come out on top and that's all that matters."
Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.