But they rallied for a 6-5 victory over the Tigers on Friday night when Angel Berroa's two-run homer in the eighth capped an improbable comeback.
"It's a great comeback, a good win," said David DeJesus, whose two-run homer in the third got the Royals rolling to their first home win in four games.
Berroa, who also singled and doubled, hit an 0-1 pitch from Ugueth Urbina (1-1), who struck out two batters before walking Eli Marrero.
"That was a great moment right there," Berroa said. "I was just feeling great today."
Jaime Cerda (1-1) got the win with one inning of hitless relief.
The Tigers got a three-run homer from Craig Monroe in the first off Jose Lima, who pitched six shutout innings after giving up five runs in the opening frame.
It was a bitter loss for Detroit, which has dropped five in a row and earlier in the day announced that outfielder Magglio Ordonez would be out four to six weeks following hernia surgery.
"It's painful, there's no question about it," manager Alan Trammell said. "It's like putting a knife in you. It hurts. But our job is we've got to regroup."
Jeremy Affeldt got the first two outs in the ninth and was replaced by Mike MacDougal. Royals manager Tony Pena, ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the bottom of the first, said Affeldt just did not seem himself. The right-hander has had a strained groin.
"He usually throws 94, 95, 96 (mph), but today it was a lot of 88-89. He didn't feel comfortable, so you don't want to put anybody's career in jeopardy," Pena said.
MacDougal came on and got Carlos Guillen to ground out to second for his first save.
The Tigers had two singles, a walk, a triple and Monroe's homer to take a 5-0 lead off Lima, who hadn't made it out of the fourth inning in his first two starts and began the night with a 10.80 ERA.
But after Nook Logan's single and third baseman Tony Graffanino's throwing error on Ivan Rodriguez's grounder in the second, Lima allowed only three of the next 19 batters to reach base. The 32-year-old right-hander allowed seven hits in seven innings.
"I was more aggressive. I threw more fastballs in, in, in, to everybody," he said. "And I threw my slider inside and my two-seamer. I kept the team in the ballgame and that means a lot to me."
If his manager had not been tossed by plate umpire C.B. Bucknor, Lima said, he would have been.
"It was going to be Tony or me. When I fight, the pitch is close," he said. "You don't want to get umpires against you because then it's the whole league against you. A fight with an umpire is like a fight with a cop because it's a big family and you don't want to have them against you."
Wilfredo Ledezma went six innings for the Tigers and gave up four runs on eight hits, walked two and struck out three.
Carlos Guillen's RBI triple gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead, then Dmitri Young hit an RBI single and Carlos Pena walked ahead of Monroe's 424-foot drive over the wall in left-center.
DeJesus hit a two-run homer off Ledezma in the third, then Berroa doubled leading off the fourth and scored on Alberto Castillo's sacrifice fly, making it 5-3.
Marrero doubled leading off the sixth and scored on Terrence Long's grounder.
"It looked like it was going to work out OK. It looked like we were in business," Trammell said. "But we weren't."
Long made fine catches in left on back-to-back plays in the third inning, running in for a shoestring grab of Monroe's sinking liner and then making a basket catch of Bobby Higginson's drive near the wall. ... Royals 1B Calvin Pickering was in California for the birth Friday of his first child, Jacob Elijah Pickering. ... Ordonez signed a $75 million, five-year contract in the offseason. RHP Andrew Good was called up from Triple-A Toledo. ... It was the sixth time Pena has been ejected.