DETROIT -- Justin Verlander couldn't believe his luck. Or lack of it.
The Detroit Tigers ace gave up hits to the first five batters he faced Tuesday but he didn't feel like he was making bad pitches.
"The first two guys hit the ball decent and then after that, what are you supposed to do?" he said. "Probably three of the worst-hit balls you can have in a row go for hits."
Kansas City scored three runs during that span but Verlander managed to shrug it off and stifle the Royals' offense from that point. He recorded his first victory since May 20 as the Tigers won the opener of a 10-game homestand 5-3 at Comerica Park.
Verlander, who struck out six while matching a season high by going seven innings, had a loss and five no-decisions in his previous six outings. Justin Wilson recorded his seventh save, striking out two of the three batters he faced.
"I wasn't happy coming out of the inning but I was happy to keep the damage to a minimum," Verlander said. "I just reset and said, 'OK, just keep making your pitches and hopefully keep your guys in the game and we can score a few runs.'"
Miguel Cabrera delivered the biggest blow, a three-run homer. Cabrera, moved into the cleanup spot for the first time this season, hit his ninth home run of the season in the third inning and it proved to be the game-winner. J.D. Martinez added a solo homer and reached base three times for Detroit.
Mikie Mahtook added two hits and a run scored for the Tigers (34-42), who won their second straight following an eight-game losing streak.
Salvador Perez drove in two runs for the Royals (37-38). Starter Matt Strahm (2-5) lasted only 3 2/3 innings, allowing five runs on six hits.
Whit Merrifield led off the first with a ground-rule double and scored on Jorge Bonifacio's single. The next three batters also singled, capped by Perez's bloop that plated two runs.
"If you're going to get to Verlander, you better get him early," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Tonight's another good example of it. We put three on the board and had a chance to tack on a couple more. But then he just got settled down. We got his pitch count way up in the first two innings and he ends up going seven."
The Tigers got one of those runs back in the second on Martinez's leadoff homer to left.
Detroit moved ahead with Cabrera's two-out, three-run blast to right field in the third.
"The pitch Cabrera hit for the three-run homer wasn't a horrible pitch," Yost said. "It was on the corner, elevated a little bit, but he's such a strong guy he just poked it the other way."
Ian Kinsler's two-out RBI single in the fourth gave the Tigers a 5-3 advantage.
Mahtook made a spectacular defensive play in center to rob Perez of an extra-base hit in the fifth. Mahtook chased the long fly to deep right-center and made a leaping grab while crashing into the wall. Perez tipped his helmet in Mahtook's direction and he shared a hug with Verlander on the way back to the dugout.
"What was hurting? Every bone in my back and my body cracked," Mahtook said. "At that point, I was just trying to get air back in my lungs. Just had to realize, 'OK, I'm alright, I'm good.' J.D. didn't even ask if I was OK. He said, 'Hey, that's probably going to be on SportsCenter tonight.' I was like, 'Well yeah, I'm good. Thanks for asking.'"
NOTES: Tigers DH Victor Martinez is expected to be activated Wednesday. Martinez was placed on the 10-day disabled list June 16th with an irregular heartbeat. Martinez is batting .261 with five homers and 29 RBIs. "There shouldn't be a ton of rust," manager Brad Ausmus said. ... The Royals haven't lost a series since dropping two out of three to the Tigers in late May. ... Detroit OF Jim Adduci began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo on Tuesday. Adduci has been on the 10-day disabled list since May 10 with an oblique strain. ... Royals LHP Brian Flynn was reinstated from the 60-day DL and optioned to Triple-A Omaha. Flynn suffered a fractured vertebra when he fell through the roof of his barn in February. ... Ausmus said he's not fretting over his job security. "After being on the hot seat for 3 1/2 years, I don't concern myself with it," he said.