Kansas City, Mo. Max Scherzer wasn’t happy to see Tigers manager Jim Leyland marching toward the mound.
The right-hander was clinging to a one-run lead against the Kansas City Royals with two outs in the seventh inning, and a pair of singles had put runners on first and second. The bullpen gate was swinging open and Scherzer knew that his night was done.
“I want the ball,” Scherzer said after watching the Detroit bullpen hang on for a 3-1 victory on Thursday night. “In that situation, I still had plenty in the tank. I understand why he made the move, he wanted the lefty-lefty matchup, but of course I want the ball.”
Instead, Phil Coke sprinted in from right field to retire Mike Moustakas and end the threat.
Joaquin Benoit survived a leadoff single by Brayan Pena in the eighth inning, Don Kelly homered in the bottom half to give the Tigers a two-run cushion, and All-Star closer Jose Valverde hung tough through a wild ninth inning for his 22nd save in 22 chances.
“It is what it is,” said Scherzer (10-4). “I want the ball, and really, that’s the way it’s got to be. If I don’t want the ball in that situation then something’s wrong.”
Leyland said he was simply trying to protect Scherzer, who had thrown only 88 pitches.
Valverde gave up a two-out walk to Eric Hosmer and an infield single to Jeff Francoeur in the ninth inning, but the animated reliever came back to retire Moustakas with the tying run on second base, marching off the mound with an emphatic fist pump after Detroit’s second straight win.
Moustakas went 0-for-4 after a 0-for-11 series against the Chicago White Sox.
“I’ve been putting some good at-bats together lately. I’m just not getting the results I want right now,” said the rookie third baseman. “The time’s going to come when these fly balls will start turning themselves into line drives and then home runs, hopefully, and the RBIs will start coming.”
The Royals’ inability to score squandered the best start of Danny Duffy’s young career.
The 22-year-old left-hander, who many pundits consider a future ace, allowed two runs and four hits over six stellar innings. Duffy struck out six and walked only one while throwing 65 of 102 pitches for strikes — but still lost for the fourth time in his first five big league decisions.
“He threw the ball great tonight. Really did a nice job,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
The only major mistake he made was a 1-2 delivery to Raburn with two outs in the second inning that went soaring into the K.C. bullpen.