CHARLIE RIEDEL / AP Enlarge
KANSAS CITY - The way Justin Verlander has been pitching lately, he didn't need the Detroit Tigers' big offensive day.
Verlander pitched seven shutout innings and the Tigers banged out a season-high 19 hits in a 13-1 victory over the slumping Kansas City Royals Monday.
Miguel Cabrera had three RBIs and four hits and Gerald Laird, Brandon Inge and Clete Thomas each had two RBIs as the Tigers won for the 23rd time in their last 31 outings at Kauffman Stadium.
Verlander (5-2), who improved to 5-0 with a 0.85 ERA in his last six starts, retired the first nine batters, gave up only five singles and did not allow a runner past second. He did not issue a walk and struck out eight, taking over the major league lead with 85.
"He's one of those guys, if he's on his game, it's not fun," said Laird, who had a two-run home run. "He's throwing 95 to 98 [mph], he's got a sharp breaking ball and a plus-changeup you've got to cover. This guy's locating his stuff and he's pitching ahead in the count."
Verlander agreed that his recent stretch is as good as he's had since breaking into the majors in 2006 as the AL rookie of the year.
It certainly is a far cry from his 11-17 record of last season.
"I feel like last year was a big learning curve for me," he said. "After last year, not having my stuff, I was able to pitch a little better and get outs without my best stuff. After this spring, working hard and getting my stuff back, putting those two things together made me a better pitcher."
Verlander also improved to 5-1 with a 1.16 ERA in seven starts at Kauffman Stadium.
Detroit's 19 hits and 13 runs were both season highs allowed by the Royals, who were leading the AL in pitching but fell four games behind the Tigers in the AL Central.
"It's been a bad day at work," said Royals manager Trey Hillman, who was ejected in the eighth by home plate umpire Paul Emmel.
It was the 12th loss in 16 games for the Royals, who have scored only four runs in their last 42 innings.
"We didn't pitch well. We didn't hit well," Hillman said. "Verlander is very good, but we've got to make better adjustments."
The only excitement for the holiday crowd of 34,524 came in the eighth when Emmel made Hillman the first Royals' ejection of the year. Hillman came out and argued after Willie Bloomquist was called out on strikes in the eighth.
"I told him the ball was low," Bloomquist said. "He said it wasn't. I told him the ball was low. He said not to say another word, and I told him the ball was low."
The Tigers jumped on Gil Meche (2-5) for four runs - two earned - in 21/3 innings on six hits and three walks. After third baseman Mark Teahen misplayed Placido Polanco's grounder in the first inning, Magglio Ordonez and Cabrera each drove in an unearned run.
In the second, Cabrera had an RBI double and Inge made it 4-0 with an RBI single. Laird had a two-run home run in the seventh, and the Tigers added four in the ninth, including Cabrera's two-run double.
Every starter had a hit for the Tigers. Clete Thomas was the only starter who did not score and every starter had an RBI except Jeff Larish, who struck out four times.
The Royals avoided their third shutout in four days when former UT standout Mitch Maier tripled off Zach Miner in the eighth and scored on David DeJesus' single.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he removed Verlander after seven because "it was a good day to save him some pitches."
"He's growing all the time," Leyland said. "He's growing as a professional, he's growing as a pitcher and you like to see that. He's doing less and less overthrowing. He's not like a bull in a china shop. He's staying poised and he's just continuing to pitch instead of trying to overthrow it 100 mph."
NOTES: Verlander retired the first three hitters on seven pitches. ... All-Star closer Joakim Soria will be in Arizona for an extended spring training appearance on Tuesday, facing his first live batters since going on the DL with right rotator strain. His could return to the Royals next week. ... The Tigers' 1-2-3 batters, a combined 0 for 23 in losses to Colorado on Saturday and Sunday, were 6 for 16. ... Magglio Ordonez extended his hitting streak to 11 games.