The Tigers pounded out 16 hits against the Royals but scored just three runs and lost, 6-3, at Kauffman Stadium. Detroit had baserunners in all but one inning. However, they hit into two double plays and tied a season high with 13 runners left on base.
The loss dropped Detroit to 3 1/2 back of the Indians in the American League Central, their largest deficit since June 5. They have lost 4 1/2 games in the standings in the past two weeks.
"If someone else keeps winning and if we lose, then they deserve it. That's the way it is supposed to be," Leyland said.
Kansas City needed just six hits to give the Tigers' their 61st loss of the season. However, two of them off Nate Robertson -- a two-out, three-run double by Alex Gordon and a two-run homer from Billy Butler -- proved the final difference.
"We got a lot of them and they got timely ones and that was the difference and that's what the difference usually is," Leyland said.
Robertson finished with six runs in 4 1/3 innings and dropped his record to 7-11. The left-hander, who walked no batters in 8 2/3 innings in his last start, issued four walks.
"That's the 64,000 dollar question," Leyland said when asked about the wildness. "It's been asked for 100 years. I don't know."
The offense yielded a similar mystery.
Entering the series, the Tigers significantly led the Majors in two clutch statistics. They were batting .313 with runners in scoring position, the best in baseball by 18 points -- and the top mark in baseball in the last seven years. With two outs and runners in scoring position, Detroit batted .292, tops by 14 points -- and the Majors' highest since 2003.
However, the offense, which accumulated 19 baserunners, finished 4-for-15 with runners in scoring position. With men in scoring position and two outs, the Tigers left seven runners on.
When they have accumulated at least 16 hits in a game this year, Detroit has never scored fewer than nine runs. The Tigers were 13-0 in those contests before Tuesday night and hadn't lost a game with that many hits since a 21-hit game in a 13-9 loss on April 13, 2006.
"Sixteen hits, we didn't take advantage of a lot of opportunities so we lost the ballgame," Leyland said. "If you get 16 hits, you should have more than three runs."
However, Brian Bannister, one of the top young pitchers in baseball, kept the Tigers scoreless through the first four innings. Detroit had several chances to score, including a two-on, one-out situation in the fourth.
"We were living on the edge all night long because they got 16 hits but sometimes you've got to give the pitchers credit for making the pitches that they have to," Royals manager Buddy Bell said.
Kansas City broke the scoreless tie in the fourth when John Buck and Gordon helped ignite a three-run rally.
With two on and two out and 16,193 fans on their feet, Buck battled Robertson to a full count. Then, Buck fouled off four straight pitches and walked on the 10th pitch of the at-bat. Gordon, the next hitter, curled a three-run double into the right-field corner for a 3-0 Royals' lead.
"Trying to come in with a four-seamer and he got started early, so I tip my cap on that one," Robertson said. "My plan was go inside, so I could open up the outside."
After Detroit scored one in the top of the fifth, KC added three more in the bottom -- and knocked Robertson from the game. Esteban German walked to lead off the inning, was sacrificed to second and moved to third on a Robertson wild pitch. Mark Grudzielanek drove a RBI single to center and Butler smacked a homer that barely cleared the wall in left-center.
I gave up two extra-base hits out of six and those counted up for five runs," Robertson said. "That's the way it goes."
The offense couldn't come back. The Tigers scored another in the sixth but three strikeouts halted the threat.
"If you hit a ground ball to second base, you should have more than three runs," Leyland said.
"I had to expand my zone with guys in scoring position and strike 'em out so they couldn't put balls in play and move runners around," Bannister added.
The Tigers hit into double plays in the seventh and eighth and put the first two men on in the ninth. Then, Joakim Soria coaxed three straight outs and ended the "freaky" night.
Conor Nicholl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.