DETROIT (AP) — The cheers have turned to jeers for Justin Verlander.
And the right-hander didn’t blame the paying customers for letting their displeasure be heard.
Omar Infante hit a three-run homer in the sixth inning and had an RBI single in a four-run fifth against his former teammate, helping the Kansas City Royals beat the Detroit Tigers 11-8 Monday night.
Verlander (6-7) allowed seven earned runs in consecutive starts for the first time in his career, giving up a season-high 12 hits and striking out just two over six innings. The 2011 AL Cy Young Award winner, who was an All-Star last year for the sixth time, has struggled this season, losing three straight and five of his last seven starts.
“Frustration is definitely the word I’m using right now,” he said.
Verlander got off to a good start, retiring the Royals in order on 10 pitches in the first inning, and pitched four scoreless innings before getting roughed up.
The Royals took a 4-2 lead in the fifth inning when Billy Butler followed Infante’s RBI single with a three-run double.
Infante cleared the left-field fences with his third homer this year with two on to make it 7-2 in the sixth, leading fans to boo Verlander, who is in the second season of his seven-year, $180 million deal.
“I don’t blame the fans for booing,” the pitcher said. “They are frustrated with me, just like I’m frustrated with myself. I would have probably booed myself tonight. They’ve cheered me a lot of times, and they will cheer me again.”
Kansas City has won a season-high eight straight to pull within a half-game of the AL Central-leading Tigers. The Royals have a chance to knock Detroit down to second place for the first time this season on Tuesday night.
“We got on a nice little run here and we’ve made up some ground,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Detroit scored six runs in the ninth inning and pulled within three on J.D. Martinez’s two-out grand slam off Donnie Joseph.
Michael Mariot struck out Austin Jackson looking for the final out.
Jason Vargas (7-2) gave up two runs on seven hits and two walks to win his third straight.
Kansas City scored four runs – one earned – on four hits and two errors off reliever Evan Reed, who failed to retire any Royals as their lead grew to 11-2.
Detroit hurt its chances of winning early in the opener of the four-game series.
Miguel Cabrera hit into an inning-ending double play in the third with runners on first and third, ending the Tigers’ chances of adding to their 1-0 lead. Detroit had three singles the next inning, but scored only one run in part because pinch-runner J.D. Martinez made a baserunning error by running too far past second base and getting tagged out.
“We had a couple mistakes in the field and a couple baserunning mistakes,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “That didn’t help us. It didn’t cost us the game, but those are things we need to clean up.”
Both teams lost a player to cramps.
Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter left the game in the fourth with a cramp in his right hamstring.
“It’s not a strain,” Ausmus insisted.
Royals catcher Salvador Perez was replaced in the seventh because of cramps in both calves.
NOTES: Kansas City RHP Yordano Ventura (4-5) will start against Detroit RHP Max Scherzer (8-2) on Tuesday night when the Royals will have a chance to move into first place and push the Tigers to second in the division for the first time this season. … Infante became expendable in Detroit last November when the franchise traded first baseman Prince Fielder to Texas for second baseman Ian Kinsler. The next month, Infante signed a $30.25 million, four-year contract with the Royals.