DETROIT (AP) The Kansas City Royals are heading into a big series with Cleveland on a sour note.
Joakim Soria allowed Jarrod Saltalamacchia's two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth, and the Royals lost 4-2 to the Detroit Tigers on Sunday. Kansas City is now eight games behind the AL Central-leading Indians, whom the Royals will host in a three-game series starting Monday night.
The defending World Series champions lost two of three at Detroit. After Tyler Collins hit a leadoff single, Saltalamacchia won it with a homer off Soria (3-4) that easily cleared the wall in right.
''That was an inside fastball, right where I wanted it, but he's a professional baseball player, too, and he hit it hard,'' Soria said. ''You don't want to lose, but I made the pitch I wanted and he hit it. Nothing you can do about that.''
Those were the only two RBIs of the day for Detroit, which scored its first two runs of the game on a balk and a wild pitch.
Francisco Rodriguez (1-0) pitched a perfect top of the ninth for the win.
Detroit rookie Michael Fulmer allowed two runs and six hits in eight innings. Kansas City starter Yordano Ventura allowed two runs and eight hits in seven innings.
The Royals led 2-0 when Detroit began chipping away in the third. With the bases loaded and one out, Ventura struck out Miguel Cabrera, but with Victor Martinez up, the Kansas City right-hander was called for a balk, allowing a run to score.
''There was nothing close to a balk on that play,'' Royals manager Ned Yost said. ''They told us that it was a non-stop issue, but he stopped for more than a second, so I don't know what threw them off. We should have been up 2-1 in the ninth with Wade (Davis) on the mound.''
Ventura struck out Martinez to end the third, but with two outs in the sixth, he gave up a drive to the gap in right-center by Nick Castellanos that became a triple when the Royals had issues getting the ball back in. Castellanos came home on a wild pitch.
Kansas City opened the scoring in the second on an RBI double by Cheslor Cuthbert, and Eric Hosmer added a run-scoring single in the third.
Fulmer allowed more than one earned run for the first time in 10 starts, but he was able to pitch deep into the game after the Tigers used several relievers the previous night. Mike Pelfrey, their starter Saturday, didn't make it out of the second inning.
''The bullpen was taxed yesterday,'' Fulmer said. ''My goal was seven innings, and to run back out for the eighth was pretty cool.''
Plate umpire D.J. Reyburn was hit around the neck when a third strike eluded Saltalamacchia in the eighth. The Tigers caught a break when the ball didn't go to the backstop – after it hit Reyburn, Saltalamacchia was able to pick it up and throw to first to retire Hosmer.
Reyburn stayed in the game after a brief delay.
''I feel terrible. His kids were in the stands watching,'' Saltalamacchia said. ''Yanked change-up. I probably should have done a better job getting to it, but thankfully he's OK.''
Royals: Yost said Lorenzo Cain (left hamstring strain) is ''progressing'' but that the OF feels he's still somewhere between 75 and 80 percent. ''For a speed guy, still not quite right, so we're just hoping that in the middle of next week, early next week, we might be able to get him out on a rehab,'' Yost said.
Tigers: RHP Warwick Saupold (right groin strain) made a rehab start Saturday night for Class A Lakeland. He allowed four unearned runs and three hits with three walks in 2 2/3 innings.
Royals: RHP Edinson Volquez (8-8) starts against Cleveland's Corey Kluber (9-8) on Monday night.
Tigers: Detroit starts a three-game set against Minnesota with LHP Matt Boyd (0-2) on the mound against Ricky Nolasco (4-7).
Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister