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Royals unable to steal one

Hosmer gunned down trying to help KC pull even with Tigers

KANSAS CITY (AP) — Eric Hosmer thought he was safe. His own manager wasn’t sure.

Third base umpire Tom Hallion called him out, and that was the only opinion that mattered.

The Kansas City Royals’ rookie was thrown out trying to steal third with one out in the ninth inning Sunday, and Jose Valverde survived another jam to preserve a masterful pitching performance by Justin Verlander in the Detroit Tigers’ 2-1 victory.

Verlander (12-4) tossed 7 2⁄3 innings to become the first Tigers pitcher since Jack Morris in 1987 with a dozen wins before the All-Star break. He fanned nine to raise his league-leading total to 147 while outdueling Jeff Francis (3-10) in temperatures that reached 98 degrees during the game.

Detroit was clinging to a 2-1 lead when Valverde entered to try for his third save in the series. Hosmer greeted him with a leadoff double, and remained on second base while Jeff Francoeur struck out.

Manager Ned Yost then gave Hosmer the signal to steal if he got an exceptional jump, and the big first baseman was several steps toward third when Valverde delivered a pitch to Mike Moustakas.

Third baseman Brandon Inge did a good job of blocking the bag and Hosmer was ruled out by Hallion on a good throw from catcher Alex Avila, even though Hosmer was certain he was safe.

“I know I got my hand in there, 100 percent,” he said. “You know, it’s a tough call for him, but it’s a shame it’s the last inning and the game ended like that. ... It was a tough way to lose.”

Yost said it appeared Inge got in front of the bag and kept Hosmer from reaching it.

“We’ve got two signs, we have a ‘must steal’ and ‘if you get a jump, go.’ And we gave him the ‘if you get a jump, go ahead and go,’” Yost said. “It’s one of those situations, the bottom of the order is coming up, you’re trying to score the tying run without the benefit of another hit.”

Instead of a runner on third with one out, the Royals had the bases empty with two outs. Moustakas grounded out to end the game as Valverde recorded his 24th straight save to start the season.

“It looked to me he was safe,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, explaining his initial reaction to Hosmer’s steal attempt. “When I saw the replay, it looked like Inge blocked him off. He was out.”

The Tigers moved a half-game ahead of Cleveland in the AL Central with their fourth win in five games, while the Royals lost for the 12th time in their last 15 matchups against division rivals.

They knew it would be a tall task Sunday with Verlander on the mound.

The 28-year-old right-hander threw 119 pitches, 82 strikes, as the heat index in the stadium concourse soared to 113 degrees by the eighth inning. Verlander improved to 12-2 in 18 starts against the Royals, who went into the All-Star break with a league-worst 37-54 record.

“I knew it would be a grind out there as hot as it was,” Verlander said. “I took my time between pitches and just tried to slow things down a little bit. I felt like that helped.”

Francis took the loss even though he had one of the his best outings of the season, going six-plus innings and surrendering two runs and four hits, with one walk and six strikeouts.

He retired the first nine Tigers, but Casper Wells doubled leading off the fourth and Brennan Bosch singled him in to give Detroit the lead. In the sixth, Wells walked, went to second with his first career steal and came home on Magglio Ordonez’s RBI single.

Verlander lost the shutout in the eighth when Alcides Escobar singled, went to third on Chris Getz’s single and scored with two outs when Inge threw high to first on Alex Gordon’s slow roller to third. Joaquin Benoit relieved and struck out Billy Butler to end the threat.

“It’s the kind of game you expect him to throw,” Francis said of his opposing starter. “We had our chances to score but he’s a tough pitcher.”

Notes: Verlander hit Escobar on the inside of his right arm in the third inning but plate umpire Phil Cuzzi refused to let him take first, apparently ruling the ball glanced off the bat. Replays clearly showed the ball hitting Escobar. Yost argued in vain. ... Morris finished with an 18-11 record after reaching 12 wins before the break in ’87. ... Kansas City’s Melky Cabrera singled in the sixth inning to stretch his hitting streak to nine games.

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