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Perez, Royals send down Verlander-led Tigers 5-1

Salvador Perez collects three hits, driving in three runs off of the former Cy Young Award-winner.

Forget it, Justin. It's Dong Town.
Forget it, Justin. It's Dong Town.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

To the handful of baseball fans who slipped into a coma sometime around the beginning of the season and came to in the last two days, the match-up between the preseason favorite to win the American League Central Detroit Tigers and the reigning American League champion Kansas City Royals--who were widely thought to be the third-best team in the division behind the Detroit and Cleveland after suffering multiple losses to free agency and addressing those losses in questionable ways--must be a surprising one.

The Royals headed to Detroit today to start the first in a three-game series in which the Royals can symbolically take the reins from the Tigers, whose hold on the division was operating on borrowed time as their core trudged down the hill from their collective phase of peak performance.

Taking the mound for the Tigers tonight was the symbol of the Tigers' plight, Justin Verlander. The once-dominant hurler is no longer an oppressive force to opposing teams. A few years ago, the Royals could never have dreamt of scoring more than maybe a pity run off of the former Most Valuable Player/Cy Young/Rookie of the Year Award-winner.

But a few years have passed since Verlander was one of the handful of names in the conversation for the game's best pitcher.

Tonight, he looked a shell of his former self, managing five strikeouts but allowing 10 hits and five runs in seven innings. The most emphatic hit allowed was a majestic dong-hanging from Salvador Perez, who registered three hits off of Verlander, extending his ownership of the right-hander for at least another game. The only Royal starters who did not get at least one hit off of Verlander were Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar.

Danny Duffy set to the task of holding down the still-potent Tigers' lineup. His first few frames prominently displayed the same flair that Duffy showed when at his best last year. He was efficient with his pitches early, facing one over the minimum in the first four innings. In the fifth, he got into a bases-loaded, one-out jam that was almost entirely his own creation as he walked both J.D. Martinez and Jefry Marte, but he induced a sharp grounder to shortstop Alcides Escobar--who threw home to prevent the Tigers' first run--and got Rajai Davis to pop up to end the fifth.

After Ian Kinsler walked to start the sixth, he stole second in what could arguably have been ruled defensive indifference and scored on a Victor Martinez single to left. That would be the sole Detroit run of the evening. Duffy got into another jam in the seventh, first and third with no outs. Fortunately for the Royals, the Tigers ran their way out of the scoring situation. Mike Moustakas took a hot shot and got the force at second. Nick Castellanos then made the dubious decision to break for home at which point Omar Infante turned to home and threw Castellanos out by a few steps. Davis lined out to Moustakas, and the inning was over. Ryan Madson and Luke Hochevar did what the Royals bullpen is supposed to do and finished off the Tigers, securing the victory for the first-place Royals, who now own a 9.0 game lead in the division. The next-best division leader holds a 5.0 game lead.

Offensively, the Royals got started in the second. Eric Hosmer and Moustakas singled off Verlander, and Kendrys Morales drove in Hosmer. Hosmer singled again in the fourth and was driven home by the emphatic Perez dong shot to left. Omar Infante led off the fifth with a double and, two sacrifices later, crossed home for the Royals fourth run of the night. Morales and Perez singled in the sixth, and Alex Rios doubled to plate the first of the slows to reach, Morales, but not the slower Perez. Five runs was more than enough, as the Royals opened the series in Detroit with a win that played out like most Royals wins have this season. Alert defense and opportune hitting steered the ship to victory tonight.

Those fans who just stirred from their comas surely have no idea what is happening. That most definitely pleases the Royals.