KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Billy Butler wasn’t happy about being ejected in the ninth inning with the game on the line.
Detroit closer Jose Valverde struck out Butler looking at a full-count pitch, Butler was ejected by plate umpire Jordan Baker for arguing the call and the Tigers held on to beat the Kansas City 3-2 and snap the Royals’ six-game winning streak Tuesday night.
“I didn’t think it was close when it happened and I came back and looked at it again and it was even more (inside) than I thought it was,” Butler said. “(Baker) told me it was on the plate. Especially in that situation, we’d have first and second with no outs, I lost my cool.”
Max Scherzer won his ninth straight decision, pitching seven sharp innings to become the first Tigers starter to begin the season 9-0 since Vern Kennedy in 1938.
Valverde struggled in the ninth inning for his ninth save in 11 opportunities.
Salvador Perez led off with a single and Elliot Johnson ran for him and stole second on the first pitch. Valverde then struck out Butler.
“There were no pitches in the game that were called strikes like that,” Butler said. “That pitch is inside. I just don’t think that can happen. With first and second and no outs we’ve got a pretty good chance to win that game. The emotions were high with the game on the line against a division rival, then that happens, yeah I’m going to be pretty chapped.”
Valverde then retired Lorenzo Cain on an infield popup and David Lough on a grounder to preserve the victory.
“They’re division rivals and we’ve already taken one game from them and we’ve got a runner on against their closer and Elliot stole second, then that happened,” Butler said.
Scherzer limited the Royals to three hits and two runs, while striking out six and walking two.
Aaron Crow (2-2), who was a college teammate of Scherzer’s at Missouri, took the loss after pitching out of a bases loaded jam in the seventh.
Crow hit Miguel Cabrera with a pitch to start the eighth. Cabrera advanced to third on Prince Fielder’s single to right on a full count and scored on Victor Martinez’s sacrifice fly to left. That was the first run allowed by the Royals’ City bullpen in 21 innings.
“Prince had a great at-bat,” Crow said. “If he sees that many pitches he’s going to do something and Martinez did a good job of hitting it deep enough. Giving guys free passes always comes back to hurt you.”
Wade Davis, who is 1-5 in his past 10 starts, departed in the seventh after giving up Omar Infante’s third hit. Davis permitted two runs on eight hits, while striking out five and walking one.
“I worked a lot more aggressively and pitched ahead, threw strikes,” Davis said. “When they hit the ball hard they were outs.”
Tigers manager Jim Leyland was impressed with the way Davis threw.
“I think he really mixed pitches well and had a little hair on his fastball when he wanted it,” Leyland said.
Tim Collins replaced Davis and allowed an 0-2 single to pinch hitter Avisail Garcia and walked Matt Tuiasosopo on five pitches to load the bases.
Crow was summoned to face Torii Hunter and struck him out on four pitches to end the inning.
Don Kelly’s single in the second scored Martinez for Detroit’s first run. Infante scored on Andy Dirks’ fielder’s choice ground out in the fifth.
Lough homered, his first in the majors, off Scherzer (9-0) to lead off the fifth. Alcides Escobar singled home Mike Moustakas with the second run of the inning to tie the score at 2-all.
“We hadn’t got a hit yet in the game so it was nice,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of Lough’s home run. “Moose got a big hit, then Esky smoked the ball down the line to tie the game.”
NOTES: The Royals signed LHP Cody Reed, their second-round pick, for $1.19 million. Reed was 8-3 with a 2.39 ERA with Northwest Mississippi. … Royals RHP James Shields, who starts Wednesday, is winless in seven starts since an April 30 victory over Tampa Bay. … Royals RHP Felipe Paulino, who had reconstructive elbow surgery last year, threw five scoreless innings and allowed two hits Tuesday in his first minor league rehab start. He was 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA in seven starts last season with Kansas City before the injury.