DETROIT — Shane Greene certainly deserved better, as did the group of hardy fans who stayed until 1:15 Monday morning, only to see the Tigers blow great chances to win in the last two innings.
Despite Greene’s efforts, the Tigers (19-13) lost 2-1 in 10 innings to the Kansas City Royals (20-11), who are now 1 1/2 games ahead in the Central Division.
The Tigers got exactly what they were looking for from Greene.
Greene was coming off of three straight tough outings in which he went 0-2 with a 16.36 ERA.
Before Sunday night’s nationally televised game, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said, "It would be nice to see him get back to where he was the first three starts."
Greene held the Royals, who came into the game with a league-best .295 batting average, to just one run on four hits in eight innings.
"I feel like my change-up’s been pretty decent all year but tonight I was throwing it for strikes and they were swinging early and often so it helped a lot," Greene said.
Greene did not walk a batter and at one point retired 15 straight, 10 straight on ground ball outs from the third inning through the sixth.
"He pitched extremely well, used his off-speed pitches, used his change-up well against lefties," Ausmus said. "He did an outstanding job."
Greene finished with 15 groundouts to three fly-outs.
"Getting outs regardless is a good sign and I haven’t been doing that lately so it was just good to get out there and get some guys out," Greene said.
Greene had struggled against left-handers, with a 7.64 ERA against them versus a 3.31 ERA against right-handers.
The run Greene gave up came in the second inning when switch-hitter Kendrys Morales and lefty Alex Gordon hit back-to-back doubles.
A quick visit from pitching coach Jeff Jones seemed to help Greene get back in a groove.
"He said just make sure you use all your pitches," Greene said. "I’m going to live or die with my fastball usually so he was just reminding me that I do have other pitches and I need to make sure I’m mixing those in."
Unfortunately for Greene, his teammates could not provide much offense.
But they did tie the game in the third when Anthony Gose hit an infield single and reached second on an error.
Ian Kinsler’s base hit scored Gose, preventing Greene from being a hard-luck loser.
The Tigers were coming to bat in the bottom of the ninth when a light rain turned heavy, causing a one-hour and 43-minute rain delay.
When played resumed, the Tigers loaded the bases against Jason Frasor in the ninth and used Rajai Davis to pinch run for Miguel Cabrera but couldn’t score.
"You don’t want to remove your best hitter from the lineup, but it’s the bottom of the ninth," Ausmus said. "Raj is a significantly faster runner than Miggy, so you hope you can win it right there with Raj. It didn’t work out this time, but to me, it’s a move you have to make at that point in the game."
Rookie Angel Nesbitt hit Alex Gordon in the 10th, and he eventually scored on former Tiger Omar Infante’s sacrifice fly.
ESPN replays appeared to show that Gordon was not actually hit, but Ausmus disputed that.
"Certain angles it may look like it missed him, but you can clearly see it when it slows down: It hits the jersey and it snaps back to the left, after being hit," Ausmus said. "So there was no phantom hit by pitch."
Catcher James McCann said he would have alerted someone if he thought Gordon had not been hit.
"It hit his jersey," McCann said. "I would have reacted differently had I thought it didn’t hit him."
Royals closer Greg Holland had trouble with his command in the 10th and loaded the bases, but Hernan Perez hit into a double play and Yoenis Cespedes struck out to end the threat.
"I don’t know why you guys are always trying to give credit to the other team," Kinsler said. "We scored one run.
"Regardless of that inning or the first inning or the second inning, we had 10 of them to score more than one run and we scored one run."