Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit throws against the Kansas City Royals in the ninth inning of a baseball game in Detroit.
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DETROIT —Jim Leyland isn’t pushing the panic button even though the Detroit Tigers have fallen to .500 after a 9-3 start.
Chris Getz’s infield single in the ninth inning put Kansas City ahead and the Royals held on to beat Detroit 3-2 Wednesday.
The Tigers have failed to win back-to-back games in two weeks and have fallen to 12-12 after their hot start.
A year ago, Detroit opened with a 12-17 record and closed 95-67 with its first division championship since 1987 — a fact that is helping Leyland remain calm in an emotional season filled with ups and downs.
“At one point last season, we were seven games behind Cleveland and ended up winning by 15,” the manager said.
Joaquin Benoit (0-1) gave up a double to Mike Moustakas, who advanced to third on a groundout and scored when Getz hit a grounder that was too deep into the hole for shortstop Jhonny Peralta to make a strong enough throw.
“Peralta plays up the middle, so I tried to shoot it in the hole,” Getz said.
Tim Collins (1-0) got Prince Fielder to fly out to the warning track in left and struck out Ryan Raburn in the eighth for the victory after Detroit tied the game on Brennan Boesch’s two-run homer.
Jonathan Broxton gave up a one-out single and got Andy Dirks to ground out into a game-ending double play for his fourth save in five chances.
Kansas City has won just seven games in a season that started with Detroit projected as a strong favorite to win the AL Central.
“Our expectations were we had to win the division by 25 or 30 games — they were pretty unrealistic in the first place,” Detroit catcher Alex Avila said. “Our goal at spring training was to win the division, by one game or 10 games doesn’t matter to us. We’re not happy with the way we’ve played, but that’s part of baseball and no one in this clubhouse is worried about it.”
Tigers ace Justin Verlander started two innings by letting the leadoff batter get on, and both of them scored. Jarrod Dyson opened the game with a walk and scored on Eric Hosmer’s two-out double that ended his 0-for-19 slump. Alex Gordon singled in the sixth and came around on Jeff Francoeur’s groundout.
Verlander allowed two runs, six hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner and league MVP also hit a batter in his 123-pitch, eight-inning outing.
“The one pitch I want back is the one in the first to Hosmer,” Verlander said. “I got (Billy) Butler with a runner on third, and then I made just a horrible pitch to Hosmer. That’s something I can’t do.
Kansas City starter Jonathan Sanchez gave up only one hit — with two outs in the fifth — two walks, hit a batter and struck out two in five innings. Jose Mijares pitched a perfect sixth inning.
Kelvin Herrera allowed two runners to get in scoring position in the seventh, but Aaron Crow kept Detroit scoreless by getting Ramon Santiago to ground out. Crow, though, gave up Austin Jackson’s leadoff single in the eighth, and Boesch made it 2-all with a line drive over the right-field fence.
NOTES: Verlander and Mickey Lolich are the only pitchers in franchise history to strike out at least seven in five of the team’s first 24 games in a season. ... The Tigers used Dirks as a pinch hitter in the ninth after he left Tuesday night’s game after aggravating his strained left hamstring. ... Verlander has pitched at least six innings in 48 straight starts since Aug. 22, 2010.