KANSAS CITY -- Emotions ran high, Billy Butler was tossed out and the Royals went down.
That was the gist of the Tigers' 3-2 victory that ended the Royals' six-game winning streak on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
From the Royals' perspective, it came down to a disputed third-strike call on Butler in the ninth inning as they were trying to eradicate the Tigers' one-run lead. Salvador Perez opened with a single against closer Jose Valverde and pinch-runner Elliot Johnson, on the first pitch to Butler, stole second base.
The count got to 3-2 on Butler and home-plate umpire Jordan Baker called him out on strike three. Butler, thinking he deserved a base on balls on an inside pitch, objected vehemently before being guided away by manager Ned Yost. Continuing his verbal volley from the dugout, Butler was ejected and then charged out to home plate for one last blast at Baker.
"That ball was inside. Everything shows it was inside, and in that situation, I just don't think that can happen. That's my opinion," Butler said in the clubhouse. "First and second with no outs, we've got a pretty good chance to win that ballgame and then that happens. I'm not saying there's anything guaranteed, but there's the ninth inning, emotions are high, everything's on the line, I had a heck of an at-bat, just trying to get him over, trying to drive him in -- and then that happens. So you know I'm going to be pretty chapped."
As it turns out, Johnson was left at second base as Valverde got Lorenzo Cain to pop out and David Lough to ground out.
Yost was mightily peeved as well.
"Billy's working hard to get to a 3-2 count, the ball is up and inside and it's called strike three. It wasn't even a borderline pitch," Yost said. "In a one-run game, that changes the whole complexion of the game, because now you have runners on first and second, you've got Lorenzo Cain up that probably has the opportunity to put up a bunt, you've got two cracks at winning the game with Lough and [Mike] Moustakas. It's just unfortunate."
When the final tally was made, Tigers starter Max Scherzer had his ninth victory without a loss and his former University of Missouri teammate, Royals reliever Aaron Crow, had taken the loss.
"We're buds," Scherzer said. "We played at Mizzou together. I was a junior, he was a freshman, so I always have a leg up on him."
Scherzer certainly did on this warm night in western Missouri with 16,493 fans in the house. He got the win when the Tigers broke a 2-2 tie in the eighth.
Crow entered the game in the seventh with the bases loaded and two outs, striking out Torii Hunter to end the threat. But Crow began the eighth by hitting Miguel Cabrera with an errant slider.
"Especially when you're ahead in the count 0-1, you can't give him first base like that," Crow said.
Prince Fielder worked the count full and punched a single into right field, sending Cabrera to third.
"If he sees that many pitches in one at-bat, he's got a good chance of getting on base," Crow said. "He battled and he definitely earned that single."
Victor Martinez lofted a fly ball to left field and Cabrera scooted home and the Tigers were up, 3-2. The run ended the bullpen's string of consecutive shutout innings at 21.
Scherzer, despite two walks in the first inning, was in superb form. The Royals were hitless until Lough opened the fifth inning with a home run to right field -- his first in the Major Leagues.
"He's a great pitcher," Lough said. "First at-bat, I saw three pitches and I struck out. I think they were all three fastballs. Second at-bat, I thought he was going to mix it up a little bit and he ended up leaving me a changeup up, and I was able to hit it out."
That awakened the Royals. Before the inning ended, Moustakas singled, moved up on Chris Getz's sacrifice bunt and scored on Alcides Escobar's single to left. The Tigers had manufactured two runs off Royals starter Wade Davis earlier in the game, so that made the score 2-2.
"Wade Davis was really good tonight," Yost said. "Really did a nice job getting us into the seventh inning like he did, tied score, just really threw the ball great."
Yet the Royals' longest winning streak since September 2011 was over. They were again 6 1/2 games behind the Tigers in the American League Central.
"Division rivals, we already took one from 'em. We're trying to battle back in this thing," Butler said, fuming over the strike call. "We've got a shot right there off their closer. Elliot steals second base. We've got nobody out and a guy on second base. It's frustrating to say the least."
One thing about it, though. The Royals still have 100 games left in the season to make things right.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.