KANSAS CITY-- It was a perfect mix of poor hitting and a shaky bullpen performance that tanked the Tigers on Friday night.
The two went hand-in-hand as the Tigers fell to the Royals, 7-3, in the opener of a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium.
The Tigers fell behind, 4-0, as the Royals offense surged behind starting pitcher Bruce Chen -- who was making just his second start of the year. Chen went five-plus innings, allowing only four hits and two earned runs, and the Tigers couldn't get a hit when it counted most.
There certainly were chances to put runs on the board for the Tigers, but the team was 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position. Run production has been Detroit's downfall lately as it has scored four runs or fewer in eight of its last 10 games.
"We have to swing the bat better," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "We had a leadoff double to start the second inning and he's still there at the end of the inning. Chen pitched a good ball game, but not the type that should shut you down."
For a moment, the Tigers climbed back into the game after a leadoff walk in the sixth inning to Magglio Ordonez. A single to Miguel Cabrera ended Chen's day, and right-hander Kyle Farnsworth came on in relief. Farnsworth's first pitch to Brennan Boesch landed in the Royals' bullpen for a three-run homer, putting the Tigers within one run of the Royals.
"Any time you get a chance to drive in runs and get the game a little bit closer, you're putting your team in an opportunity to get a win," Boesch said. "When I get that opportunity, I want to capitalize regardless of what happened before. You just have to bear down and, every opportunity you get to drive in runs, you have to take advantage of it."
Boesch certainly took advantage of that opportunity as he belted his fifth homer of the season.
Royals manager Ned Yost had an interesting take on the home run that cut his team's lead to one.
"[Farnsworth] came in and was on the attack and tried to throw strike one and the kid hit it out of the park," Yost said. "I don't really want him to hit a three-run homer there, but I'm proud [Farnsworth] went after him, trying to get ahead. That's what we asked him to do."
Detroit's hopes of a comeback were short-lived after Tigers starter Max Scherzer was pulled following a leadoff single by Alberto Callaspo in the Royals' half of the sixth. Ryan Perry came on in relief and after getting two quick outs, Perry gave up three straight singles, and the Royals scored three times, extending their lead to 7-3.
Sending Perry in while the Tigers were only down one run seemed like a safe bet to Leyland. But that safe bet turned out to be the nail in the coffin for the Tigers.
"That killed us," Leyland said. "[After Scherzer was taken out] I thought it was a good time to get Perry going. It really wasn't a big pressure situation, he just left the ball in the middle of the plate, as he has been doing for awhile."
After facing only five batters, Perry was pulled. The right-hander gave up three hits and two earned runs, increasing his ERA to 5.91. All in all, Perry blamed his slider for his inconsistency.
"I feel it's catching [too] much of the plate," Perry said of his slider. "The last hitter I faced, I got a 3-1 count. He knows what's coming. That's the way it goes."
And just like that the Tigers were back where they started -- trailing by three runs.
After the game, Leyland gave credit to Chen, but wasn't going to use Chen's performance as an excuse for sub-par hitting.
"He pitched good," Leyland said of Chen. "I don't want to take anything away from him, but we can't keep saying everybody pitches good. This is the big leagues. If you're saying every night that somebody pitched good, then you got problems. Every now and then you have to hit good."
Samuel Zuba is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.