By JEFF BARTL
(AP) -- Justin Verlander has pitched well in each of his first two starts, though he doesn't have a win to show for those efforts.
He hasn't had much trouble earning victories against the Kansas City Royals.
Verlander looks to continue his mastery of the Royals when the Detroit Tigers visit Kauffman Stadium in the opener of a three-game series Monday night.
The reigning AL Cy Young winner and MVP had a 2-0 lead through eight innings in both of his outings, but the Tigers weren't able to hold the lead.
Verlander (0-1, 2.20 ERA) allowed two hits before running into trouble in the ninth against Tampa Bay on Wednesday, getting charged with four runs in 8 1-3 innings of a 4-2 defeat.
"Once a couple guys got on, really the first time I've cranked it up like that - and lost a little bit of my consistency that I'd had all day," Verlander said. "It's inexcusable. This loss rests solely on my shoulders."
The right-hander did his part in his opening-day start against Boston on April 5, allowing two hits before the bullpen faltered. Detroit ended up winning 3-2 with a run in the bottom of the ninth, though Verlander didn't earn a decision.
That hasn't been the case in his last four starts against the Royals, winning each with a 1.82 ERA. Verlander is 13-2 with a 2.40 ERA in 19 career starts versus Kansas City, and another win will give him more victories than he has against any other team. He's also beaten Cleveland 13 times.
Verlander is 8-2 with a 1.82 ERA lifetime at Kauffman Stadium, where the Royals (3-6) were swept in a three-game series against the Indians with Sunday's 13-7 loss.
Billy Butler, who is 14 for 39 (.359) with two homers off Verlander, had an RBI single and is hitting .364 with four doubles and a homer during a five-game hitting streak.
Royals pitchers allowed seven home runs, 17 extra-base hits and 32 runs in the series, and manager Ned Yost turned to outfielder Mitch Maier in the ninth to pitched a scoreless inning Sunday.
"Let's hope it doesn't happen again," Maier said. "I don't like to be put in that situation, but we needed an inning."
Kansas City will look to bounce back with the help of another solid outing from Danny Duffy (1-0, 0.00), who allowed one hit and struck out eight in six innings of a 3-0 win over Oakland on Tuesday.
The left-hander will be seeking his first win against Detroit after going 0-2 with a 5.63 ERA in three starts versus the Tigers as a rookie.
Gerald Laird was a triple short of the cycle and helped the Tigers (6-3) salvage the finale of a three-game series with a 5-2 victory over Chicago on Sunday.
Rick Porcello allowed one run in 7 2-3 innings to give Detroit's starting rotation its first victory.
"All the other starters have pitched well," Porcello said. "It's just the way it's happened so far."
Verlander allowed three runs in seven innings of a 4-3 win over the Royals on Aug. 6, beating Duffy, who gave up three runs over five.
Updated April 15, 2012