Everything you need to know about Brandon Moss's season could be summed up by the way he greeted a pack of reporters that gathered around his locker after a crucial hit in the ninth inning helped lift the Kansas City Royals to a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers.
"This is really nice," he said, "to talk to you guys about something other than sucking."
Moss was signed in the offseason to provide some punch to the Kansas City lineup, but he's struggled so mightily that he has hardly played. He came into the game hitting just .188 with 10 homers and 16 RBIs.
All those numbers took a bump up Wednesday night.
Moss homered in the third off Justin Verlander before coming through against Tigers closer Justin Wilson (3-4) in the ninth. The Tigers had gone ahead on Mikie Mahtook's two-run shot off Kelvin Herrera in the top half when Moss doubled off the wall in center to drive in the tying run.
Moss went to third on the throw to the plate, and Alex Gordon sent a fly ball to center that was just deep enough to give him his sixth career walk-off RBI and the Royals a much-needed win.
They had lost the first two games of the series and seven of eight overall.
"We've talked about the importance of getting him hot," Royals manager Ned Yost said of Moss, whose homer was his first since July 1. "He can definitely change the game."
Jason Hammel and three Royals relievers had successfully ushered a 2-1 lead to Herrera, who proceeded to walk Victor Martinez in the ninth. Andrew Romine came in to pinch run and swiped second base, but all it did was shorten his trot home when Mahtook went deep.
Herrera threw one more pitch before summoning the training staff and leaving the game. He had an illness that sidelined him the past couple of games and said he overheated.
"I felt worn out," Herrera said. "No energy."
Kevin McCarthy (1-0) got the final two outs to earn the win.
Verlander scattered six hits and a walk over seven innings while striking out eight, but he was in line for the loss after Mike Moustakas hit an RBI single in the seventh. Bruce Rondon kept Detroit close with a scoreless eighth before Wilson let things get away from him in the ninth.
"I thought Justin was outstanding from the get-go," said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, whose club had won four straight. "I thought it was his best start of the year."
Verlander retired the first seven batters he faced. And after Moss sent an 0-1 pitch off the foul pole in right for a tying home run, Verlander proceeded to breeze through the next couple of innings.
He even helped himself by picking off Jorge Bonifacio at second base to end the sixth.
"A huge step in the right direction," Verlander said. "It felt like me again."
But Hammel matched him inning-for-inning after the first, when he gave up two singles and Miguel Cabrera drove in the game's first run. Hammel retired the next nine batters he faced, then six more after Nicholas Castellanos managed a single in the fourth.
Hammel gave up another single in the fifth but promptly struck out Cabrera to end the inning, and got a standing ovation when he left after a one-out walk to Martinez in the seventh.
STATS AND STREAKS
The Royals had lost three straight to Detroit. They also improved to 14-23 against the AL Central this season. ... Verlander has gone at least seven innings in seven straight starts against Kansas City. ... Hammel is winless in his last five starts dating to June 19.
Tigers RHP Michael Fulmer looks to win his fifth straight start in the finale of their four-game series Thursday night. Fulmer allowed one run and two hits in eight innings against the Blue Jays his last time out. He is scheduled to meet Royals LHP Danny Duffy, who surrendered his only run in the ninth inning of a 1-0 loss to the Rangers on Sunday.