Kansas City, Mo. — The game of inches became a duel of feats for the Tigers and Royals on Wednesday night.
And with two runs off Jose Valverde in the 11th, the Royals won it, 3-2.
But only after Miguel Cabrera tied it with a home run off the foul pole in right with two outs and a 2-2 count on him in the ninth.
And only after the Tigers pulled in front on Carlos Guillen’s run-scoring single in the 11th.
“We got it to our closer,” said manager Jim Leyland, “but couldn’t hold it.”
Because, suddenly, turnabout became fair play.
Alberto Callaspo tucked the full-count, game-tying homer inside the same foul pole that Cabrera hit. Billy Butler singled to short. Rick Ankiel doubled to the gap in right-center — and when Scott Sizemore dropped the relay for an error, pinch-runner Willie Bloomquist scored the winning run.
In a game of stingy pitching on both sides, Valverde didn’t retire a batter.
“He didn’t get the split over on 2-2 and Callaspo charged the next one,” Leyland said. “It was a heck of a ballgame. We got it to where we wanted it, with our closer still available, but tonight we just didn’t hold it. That’s all part of it.”
But most of the game, both the wet and dry part of it, was well-pitched by both sides.
Royals starter Luke Hochevar worked the first 7 2/3 innings in the second game of the season for both teams — but the first drenching for both teams.
After six soggy scoreless innings against Max Scherzer, the Royals broke through for a run in the seventh on Chris Getz’s run-scoring single to right off Fu-Te Ni.
Ni retired the first two he faced, but gave up a single and walk before Getz’s single to right against the team for which, in Grosse Pointe Farms, he grew up rooting.
Scherzer, incidentally, was outstanding. He pitched six scoreless innings, allowing one hit — Kendall’s two-out single in the fifth.
“I thought he was terrific,” Leyland said.
It was in the fifth the Royals put together their biggest threat against the Tigers starter, loading the bases with two outs. However, Scherzer struck out David DeJesus, looking, to get out of trouble.
Hochevar departed in the eighth with two outs and Gerald Laird on second as a pinch-runner for Alex Avila, who opened the inning with a single.
Soria came on to strike out Austin Jackson, stranding Laird. He also struck out Johnny Damon and Magglio Ordonez in the ninth before Cabrera’s home run tied it.
Cabrera came into the game with hits in his last eight at-bats against Hochevar — tying three other Tigers (Lou Whitaker, Al Kaline and Harvey Kuenn) for the most consecutive hits by a Tigers’ batter off any pitcher since 1954.
The streak ended, however, with a fielder’s choice grounder to short in the first.
The game began in miserable conditions, looking like it could get delayed at any time, but the umpires opted to play through the downpour.
Anything in the air for the first four innings was a threat to be a hit — a case in point being Austin Jackson’s wind-blown triple in the third that should been caught by right fielder DeJesus, but ended up eluding center fielder Ankiel.
The rain cleared out after the fourth, allowing the fans to return to return to their seats. The Tigers’ offense stayed away, though — until Cabrera connected.