KANSAS CITY -- Danny Duffy played the role of stopper on Monday night.
Maybe it wasn't the most traditional version of the role, as that title is usually assigned after a pitcher stops a team's losing streak. The Royals lost the game, 3-2, to the Tigers, but Duffy ended a streak of nightmare outings for the Kansas City starting staff.
Duffy took the loss, but he threw 6 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on seven hits and three walks. He struck out seven.
That's easily the best outing by a Royals starting pitcher since the team returned home from its season-opening road trip. In a three-game series against Cleveland over the weekend, no Royals starter recorded an out after the fourth inning, and Luke Hochevar, Jonathan Sanchez and Luis Mendoza combined to allow a total of 21 runs.
Duffy ended that streak Monday against a Tigers team known for its pop. The seven strikeouts nearly equaled his impressive first outing of the season, when he struck out eight Oakland Athletics.
Duffy wasn't pleased with a few of the pitches he made, including two that ended up as home runs off the bats of Austin Jackson and Brandon Inge.
"I definitely got lost in that first inning," Duffy said. "But Dave [Eiland, pitching coach] came out and told me what I've got to do. And I know what I've got to do. But it was a tough loss. I made a mistake to Inge, and I feel like I executed every pitch to the best of my ability."
Royals manager Ned Yost, who had to take the ball from his starters very early during the previous three games, was pleased with Duffy's outing.
"Danny Duffy was outstanding," Yost said. "It was fantastic stuff, and he was really commanding it. He really got settled in in the third inning."
Yost wasn't the only skipper impressed with Duffy, with Tigers manager Jim Leyland calling Duffy "a tremendous-looking young pitcher." There was more praise from the Detroit clubhouse.
"He's got a great arm. He's got good stuff," Inge said of Duffy. "He's still learning. He's going to be a good pitcher. He already is, but he'll be really good down the road."
Pitching Maier not Yost's preference
KANSAS CITY -- Ned Yost has done it twice now, using a position player to pitch while losing a blowout, but the Royals' manager hates to do it.
"It's the last thing you want to do," Yost said. "I think I'd rather go get all my teeth pulled than do something like that."
Outfielder Mitch Maier did the task on Sunday, pitching a scoreless ninth in a 13-7 loss to the Indians. He'd done the same thing last July 26 in a 13-9 loss at Boston.
Yost considered using reliever Greg Holland in the ninth, but finally decided it made more sense to have the right-hander fresh and ready for Monday night's game against the Tigers.
"We had Holland warming up and I told [bench coach] Chino [Cadahia], 'This doesn't make any sense. Let's do the smart thing and get through the inning with Mitch and we'll have a full 'pen tomorrow against Detroit,'" Yost said.
How does a manager decide which non-pitcher to send to the mound?
"What I do is I pick the smartest guy on the team that I know and trust," Yost said. "When I put Mitch out there, he's not going to be a dope. He's not going to try to throw 120 miles an hour, he's not going to try to strike anybody out. He's going to go out there and try to throw strikes, let them hit the ball and get us back into the dugout."
Which is exactly what Maier did, using his 71-to-74 mph deliveries, getting a flyout, a single and a double-play grounder.
Maier is the third non-pitcher to take the mound twice for the Royals. Infielder Jerry Terrell did it in 1979 and 1980 and outfielder Joe Simpson did it twice in 1983. One-timers were outfielder Leon Roberts (1984) and infielders Bill Pecota (1991), David Howard (1994), Shane Halter (1998) and Tony Pena Jr. (2008).
Betancourt sits with sore right ankle
KANSAS CITY -- Royals infielder Yuniesky Betancourt is nursing a sore right ankle, result of a slight sprain suffered in a Spring Training game.
"We need to get that taken care of and get him back to running full strength," manager Ned Yost said. "It's the thing that he did at the end of Spring Training and it's been nagging him."
Yost plans to use the right-handed-hitting Betancourt at second base in Tuesday night's game, instead of left-handed-hitting Chris Getz, because the Tigers are starting lefty Drew Smyly.
Chen faces tough task against Tigers
KANSAS CITY -- Left-hander Bruce Chen will face a tough Tigers team on Tuesday that he managed to tame last year when he beat them in two starts, with a 2.45 ERA. The 2011 Tigers, of course, didn't have Prince Fielder.
"They've got Fielder, but they don't have Victor Martinez," Chen said. "But they've still got a very good lineup with Miguel Cabrera, [Jhonny] Peralta, Austin Jackson -- all those guys are pretty good. We have a pretty good lineup, too, and all I want to do is give our team a chance to win."
Chen has never faced Fielder, but Cabrera is 9-for-18 against him with three home runs and seven RBIs. However, Chen has handled Peralta (2-for-18, .111) and Jackson (2-for-15, .133).
The Royals are coming off a three-game sweep administered by another division rival, the Indians.
"It's just one of those times we didn't have a very good series," Chen said. "We can't cry about it, we just have to be ready for the series -- which is a very huge series against the Tigers, the guys that are supposed to win the division so we've got to play them hard."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. Associate reporter Vinnie Duber also contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.