Neither the Detroit Tigers nor the Kansas City Royals saw their starting pitcher turn in a great outing in Wednesday's opener of the shortened series, both struggling through unseasonably cold conditions. With Thursday's forecast looking a bit warmer, Justin Verlander and James Shields likely have better performances in mind as they take the mound for their respective clubs.
The two have started against each other twice before, with Shields and his former Tampa Bay team getting the better of the Detroit ace both times. But Verlander hopes to reverse that trend Thursday and continue his domination of Kansas City. He is 15-2 with a 2.73 ERA in 23 starts against the Royals, winning each of the last six decisions.
Detroit starter Max Scherzer and counterpart Wade Davis both struggled in the 39-degree weather Wednesday, with Scherzer giving up five runs in five innings and Davis seven in just 3 2-3, and it was the Tigers (10-9) taking a 7-5 victory.
"Pitchers need to be able to feel the ball with their fingertips - that's how they are able to manipulate it," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "When it is this cold, you can't do that. I'm sure that was a big part of Wade's problem, but it didn't help Scherzer, either."
The Tigers snapped a four-game slide with lots of help from their bullpen, which threw four shutout innings. At the end was Jose Valverde earning the save with a perfect ninth in his season debut.
"This wasn't a first day - I've been here for four years," said Valverde, who signed a one-year deal on Wednesday after Detroit declined to offer him a contract in the offseason. "I just missed a couple weeks of weather like this."
Verlander (2-2, 2.13 ERA), who has struck out 29 in 25 1-3 innings, will try to stick longer than Scherzer did. He's coming off a 2-0 loss at Seattle, where he gave up two runs on a season-high nine hits in seven innings last Thursday. Both runs came in the seventh, with Kyle Seager providing the go-ahead RBI double with two outs.
"It was a bad pitch," Verlander, who struck out 12, said of the pitch to Seager. "Not taking anything away from him - he came up and jumped on a first-pitch fastball - but I didn't execute."
Shields (1-2, 3.00) didn't record a decision in his last outing but struck out eight while limiting Boston to one run on four hits over six innings, though Kansas City (10-8) lost 4-3. Shields needed 106 pitches to get through six innings and issued three walks.
"He struggled to find his control a little, which got his pitch count up," Yost said.
Shields is 5-1 with a 3.66 ERA in nine career starts against the Tigers.
Though Verlander has largely gotten the better of the Royals, Billy Butler is 21 for 53 (.396) off him with four doubles and two home runs. Verlander allowed seven earned runs with 13 strikeouts over 16 1-3 innings in his last two games opposite Shields, who gave up four earned runs over 14 2-3 with 12 strikeouts.