KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — There were plenty of superlatives to go around in the Detroit clubhouse Wednesday night.
Jordan Zimmermann extending his impressive scoreless innings streak to start the season. Victor Martinez reaching 1,000 RBIs for his career. Francisco Rodriguez surviving a dicey ninth inning for his 390th save, matching Dennis Eckersley for sixth on baseball’s career list.
The fact that the Tigers beat the Kansas City Royals 3-2 was hardly an afterthought, though.
“The most important part of tonight,” Martinez said, “is we were able to win.”
It came down to the wire when Rodriguez served up back-to-back homers to Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez in the ninth. But the veteran closer bounced back to strike out Mike Moustakas and leave runners on first and second, recoiling off the mound after notching the save that evened the series.
“It was his to save or lose,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said.
Zimmermann (3-0) scattered seven hits and a walk over 6 1/3 innings, striking out eight, in another sharp performance. He has yet to allow a run over 19 1/3 innings, a stretch that is beginning to make the $110 million, five-year contract he signed in November look like a bargain.
It’s the longest scoreless streak to begin a season by a Detroit pitcher since at least 1913.
“Just keep pounding the zone. I had good fastball command for the first time all year,” Zimmermann said. “I got two strikes on a lot of guys and was able to put them away.”
Ian Kinsler drove the other two runs for Detroit, which did just enough against Ian Kennedy (2-1) and the Kansas City bullpen. Kennedy allowed two runs on six hits and two walks while striking out seven, while Chien-Ming Wang allowed the decisive run in the ninth.
“I figured it was going to be a pitcher’s duel,” Royals manager Ned Yost said.
The Tigers beat the Royals with their own formula: timely hitting and solid defense.
One night after watching Kansas City score all of its runs with two outs in an 8-6 defeat, Kinsler drove in the first run of Wednesday night’s game with a two-out double in the third inning.
Martinez added his run-scoring single with two outs in the sixth. He joined teammate Miguel Cabrera, Andres Galarraga, Bobby Abreu and Magglio Ordonez as the only Venezuelan-born players with 1,000 RBIs.
The few base runners that Zimmermann allowed were squandered by Kansas City.
Moustakas was caught wandering too far off first and got nabbed in a run-down to end the third inning. Then in the fifth, after putting runners on first and second with nobody out, Omar Infante failed to get down a bunt before striking out and Jarrod Dyson grounded into a double play.
The one big mistake Zimmermann made came in the sixth, when he bobbled a bouncer from Eric Hosmer’s bat for an error. He rebounded to retire Kendrys Morales and strand a pair of runners.
“He’s aggressive. He’s not scared to throw his fastball,” Perez said. “If you keep the ball down, it’s hard to hit a guy like that.”
STATS AND STREAKS
Perez homered for the second straight game. He hit a three-run shot Tuesday night. … Hosmer pushed his on-base streak to 22 games, the longest in the AL. The Tigers’ J.D. Martinez reached base in his 19th straight. … The Tigers (8-5) improved to 6-0 when scoring first.
FOR THE KIDS
Royals GM Dayton Moore joined Mayor Sly James in breaking ground on the Kansas City Urban Youth Academy on Wednesday. Several members of the Royals have donated money to the $14 million facility, which will feature baseball and softball fields, revamped playgrounds and other amenities.
Royals reliever Joakim Soria discovered a mechanical problem in his delivery during a video session with Yost and pitching coach Dave Eiland on Wednesday. Soria thinks the flaw is the reason he’s struggled after signing a $25 million, three-year deal in the offseason.
Tigers C James McCann is hitting in the cage and was expected to begin throwing Wednesday, though it’s still unclear when he will return. He went on the DL on April 12 with a sprained right ankle.
Royals RHP Edinson Volquez (2-0, 2.04 ERA) tries to remain perfect when he makes his third start of the season in the series finale. Tigers RHP Mike Pelfrey opposes him in the 6:15 p.m. game.