DETROIT -- Justin Verlander has gotten a lot of big third outs, some of them followed by a big reaction. The shout he uttered into his glove Monday night was clearly not that kind of reaction.
As Ian Kinsler fired to first base to retire Eric Hosmer for the final out of the sixth inning, Verlander put his glove to his mouth and yelled emphatically enough that he hunched over to do it.
It wasn't about the out, but the damage to the Royals that preceded it.
It was a lot of damage.
It's been a lot of damage.
"Frustration," Verlander explained after the Tigers' 11-8 loss to the Royals at Comerica Park. "I can't say what those words were. They're not TV, paper, anything else, mother-approved."
The numbers aren't particularly clean, either. The reactions from the crowd of 31,774 at Comerica Park reflected the disapproval towards that.
While Verlander allowed seven runs for the second consecutive outing, his 12 hits allowed marked his highest total since last July and tied his highest hit count since 2006. Add in a four-run seventh off Evan Reed, and the Royals scored 11 runs in a three-inning stretch, the last of which loomed as the difference once the Tigers rallied for six runs in the ninth to make the score close.
The difference between Detroit and Kansas City in the AL Central standings, meanwhile, dropped to a half-game, the Tigers' smallest lead since they were tied atop the division on April 19. Detroit will need to win two of the remaining three games in this series to stay on top heading into Cleveland at week's end -- and Verlander's next start there on Saturday.
Verlander forecast Sunday that the Royals would come into town looking to make a statement against the three-time defending division champs. Their win made just as much of a statement about Verlander's recent struggles.
And as Verlander headed towards the dugout at the end of the sixth, clearly steamed, he heard the kind of reaction previously reserved for him in hostile road environments like Oakland, New York and Chicago's south side.
Verlander was booed -- in Detroit.
"They've cheered me plenty. They have the right to boo," Verlander said, "because I was frustrated. If I was up in the stands, I'd boo myself too. I will get better. They'll cheer again."
While Verlander has been looking for his form since May, his struggles have picked up in June. He headed into the month with a 3.99 ERA on the season. Three starts, 19 runs and 18 2/3 innings later, his ERA now sits at 4.98, his highest mark after 15 starts in any season.
He has remained optimistic between starts that his stuff is improving, that he's close to finding an effective form, even if it isn't the dominance that made him one of baseball's nastiest pitchers. He has had glimpses of that in games, but not stretches.
Monday didn't provide a glimpse so much as a getaway, for four innings. Again, it wasn't so much a matter of velocity as command. His fastball opened at 94 mph and sat at 95, slightly down from his previous two starts. Instead of missing the strike zone, as he did in his previous starts, he often missed over the plate -- with his fastball as well as his off-speed offerings.
"The first four innings we were getting some weak contact," catcher Alex Avila said. "We were changing speeds. His command was OK. I wouldn't say it was spot-on because if it was, he would've been able to keep it going. I think it just kind of caught up in that fifth, sixth inning."
Both Avila and Verlander called it a snowball effect. On a night with a first-pitch temperature of 89 degrees, the snowball kept rolling.
Hoping to avoid the big inning that doomed him in his recent starts, Verlander suffered two. One came from an old nemesis, a four-run fifth inning fueled by Billy Butler's bases-clearing double.
"No matter what kind of a skid that Verlander's on, you expect him to get right back on track," Butler said. "It's one of those things where we capitalized on every mistake he made."
Even when Verlander has been at his best, Butler has hit him -- now 33-for-75 with nine walks against Verlander for their careers. Verlander got him for a double play on a fastball over the plate in the fourth inning because he spotted a first-pitch slider to get ahead. Once three consecutive ground-ball singles -- the last an Eric Hosmer squibber -- loaded the bases and extended the fifth for Butler, he tried back-to-back inside fastballs.
"The first one was good," Avila said. "It was running in, looking like a strike and then it runs inside. We were trying to get that again, maybe induce a double play there and get a ground ball, and just left it over the middle of the plate."
The other came from a former teammate, with Omar Infante's three-run homer dooming Verlander to his fifth loss in his last six starts. There wasn't much mystery to that one.
"I was set up down and away," Avila said, "and the ball took my glove back middle and belt high."
Or from Verlander's view, "Instead of being on the black, it ran back to the middle up. Middle up's no bueno."
His next and last pitch was a changeup on the outside corner to Hosmer, getting a ground-ball out as he put glove to mouth and screamed.
That yell ended up being his statement.
"Back to the drawing board," he said. "Tomorrow's a new day."
He's got that and three more before his next start to find the old Verlander or a new form that will work.
"I'm going to go Luis Tiant, totally revamp my mechanics, do a little praise to the gods before I throw home," he joked. "Also probably add a splitty and an eephus. My next start's going to be a whole new me."
After exiting with a scream, he took a moment to laugh.