KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Max Scherzer wasn't happy to see Tigers manager Jim Leyland marching toward the mound.
The right-hander was clinging to a one-run lead against the Kansas City Royals with two outs in the seventh inning, and a pair of singles had put runners on first and second. The bullpen gate was swinging open and Scherzer knew that his night was done.
"I want the ball," Scherzer said after watching the Detroit bullpen hang on for a 3-1 victory on Thursday night. "In that situation, I still had plenty in the tank. I understand why he made the move, he wanted the lefty-lefty matchup, but of course I want the ball."
Joaquin Benoit survived a leadoff single by Brayan Pena in the eighth inning, Don Kelly homered in the bottom half to give the Tigers a two-run cushion, and All-Star closer Jose Valverde hung tough through a wild ninth inning for his 22nd save in 22 chances.
"It is what it is," said Scherzer (10-4), who finally joined teammate Justin Verlander in reaching the double-digit win plateau before the All-Star break. "I want the ball, and really, that's the way it's got to be. If I don't want the ball in that situation then something's wrong."
Leyland said he was simply trying to protect Scherzer, who had thrown only 88 pitches.
"I wasn't going to let him get hurt," Leyland said. "After pitching that good, I wasn't going to let him make one mistake and somebody hits a three-run homer."
Valverde gave up a two-out walk to Eric Hosmer and an infield single to Jeff Francoeur in the ninth inning, but the animated reliever came back to retire Moustakas with the tying run on second base, marching off the mound with an emphatic fist pump after Detroit's second straight win.
Moustakas went 0 for 4 after a 0-for-11 series against the Chicago White Sox.
"I've been putting some good at-bats together lately. I'm just not getting the results I want right now," said the rookie third baseman. "The time's going to come when these fly balls will start turning themselves into line drives and then home runs, hopefully, and the RBIs will start coming."
The Royals' inability to score squandered the best start of Danny Duffy's young career.
The 22-year-old left-hander, who many pundits consider a future ace, allowed two runs and four hits over six stellar innings. Duffy struck out six and walked only one while throwing 65 of 102 pitches for strikes -- but still lost for the fourth time in his first five big league decisions.
"He threw the ball great tonight. Really did a nice job," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
In fact, the only major mistake he made was a 1-2 delivery to Raburn with two outs in the second inning that went soaring into the Kansas City bullpen. The two-run shot brought home Miguel Cabrera and gave Scherzer and the Detroit bullpen just enough run support.
"It was down but he went and got it. It just must have been the exact coordinates on the map that he was thinking it was going to be at that point in time," Duffy said. "I wasn't finding the zone very well in that inning. It was just a tough inning. It's a shame it happened the way it did."
The Royals optioned Duffy to Triple-A Omaha after the game so that he could keep pitching on a regular schedule during next week's All-Star break.
"He kept us in the game," Yost said. "He did what we want."
The Royals just couldn't help him out at the plate.
They scored their only run in the fifth, when Hosmer shot a pitch down the left-field line for a leadoff double. He advanced to third on Francoeur's fly ball before scoring on Moustakas' groundout.
"It's nice," Scherzer said. "It's nice for the team to come in and win the first game of the series."
Royals C Jason Kendall has re-torn the rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder. The 37-year-old will have surgery next week in Los Angeles that will sideline him at least through 2012. Manager Ned Yost did not say whether he expects Kendall to retire. ... Detroit DH Victor Martinez was second in the AL All-Star final vote standings behind Paul Konerko of the Chicago White Sox. Gordon was third. ... Tigers OF Austin Jackson left the game after his first at-bat with a sore left wrist. Leyland said he may not play the rest of the four-game series. ... The Royals plan to recall Everett Teaford in time for Friday night's game.