DETROIT (AP) — One day after being shut down by Justin Verlander, the Kansas City Royals fared no better against Brad Penny.
Penny pitched eight scoreless innings with the help of some terrific Detroit fielding, and the Tigers beat Kansas City 3-0 on Saturday for their seventh straight victory. The Royals scored only one run the night before against Verlander in a 3-1 loss.
“Pitchers feed off each other,” Kansas City’s Jeff Francoeur said. “I’m sure (Penny) saw Verlander last night and probably thought he had to come out and keep it going.”
Detroit scored three runs in the first inning, then held on for its 10th win in 11 games. The Tigers made four marvelous plays in the field to prevent a Kansas City comeback.
Penny (4-3) allowed five hits and no walks in eight innings, striking out two. Jose Valverde struck out two more in a hitless ninth, earning his 10th save.
Jeff Francis (0-5) pitched all eight innings for Kansas City, allowing seven hits and a walk. He struck out four.
“Just didn’t come out of the chute with the best stuff,” Francis said. “I guess I got a wake up call.”
Francis bounced back in what was his longest outing since 2007.
“You’ve got to tip your hat to their guy,” Penny said. “He gave up those runs early and pitched deep into the game and saved their bullpen. That guy threw well enough to win today.”
The complete game was the first for Francis since Aug. 29, 2007, when he was pitching for the Colorado Rockies at San Francisco. His most recent eight-inning start was in September of that year.
The Tigers scored three runs in the first on five singles. The last three hits came from Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta, each driving in a run.
“It took him about 20 pitches before he could dial it in,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. “The first 20 pitches were up. Then he got it down in the zone and started changing speeds.”
Martinez extended his hitting streak to 13 games.
Penny’s defense helped him throughout. Third baseman Brandon Inge caught a foul popup while falling into the crowd to end the top of the second. With a man on second and one out in the fourth, right fielder Casper Wells made a sliding catch on a hard line drive by Francoeur, then center fielder Austin Jackson made a backhanded catch with his back to the plate on a deep fly ball by Eric Hosmer.
“We had some awesome plays today,” Penny said. “That’s probably the best defense I’ve had, personally, in one start in my career.”
Second baseman Scott Sizemore made a diving stop to his left on a groundball in the seventh.
Penny has pitched at least six innings without allowing an earned run in three of his last five starts.
“He commanded the ball and threw strikes, he threw curves for strikes, he moved the ball in and out,” Yost said. “He didn’t make three mistakes we could crush, and their defense played great.”
Sunday’s game won’t necessarily be any easier for the Royals. The Tigers will send unbeaten Max Scherzer to the mound as they try for a three-game sweep.
Despite shutting down the Tigers after the first, Francis remains without a win since July 30. He’s allowed three or fewer earned runs six times this season.
“It wasn’t like we knocked the ball around,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “Sometimes you win with the longball and the gapper, and sometimes you win other ways. The old saying, pitching and defense, it keeps you in almost every game, and it wins you a few games, obviously, as well.”
NOTES — Martinez is hitting .468 during his hitting streak. Peralta is hitting .441 during his. ... Sizemore had two hits for Detroit. ... The complete game was the first for Francis since Aug. 29, 2007, when he was pitching for the Colorado Rockies at San Francisco.