It isn't as if veteran lefty Jeff Francis is blameless for his failure to record a victory in 15 appearances since last July 30. But, hey, a little offensive support might make a difference.

Instead, what happened Saturday afternoon is fast becoming the norm.

Francis pitched reasonably well - more than that in this case - but the Royals offered up the sort of punch typically seen at a pillow fight instead of a club leading the league in runs. The result was a 3-0 loss to the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.

True, Francis did put the Royals in a quick three-run hole by allowing five hits in the first inning before settling into form and permitting nothing more. He recorded the third complete game of his career and his first since 2007.

He also threw 112 pitches - his highest total since undergoing shoulder surgery in 2008. All he got was another loss.

"The guy across the way was pretty good, too," Francis said. "I know that our hitters are as good as any team in this league. It takes a pretty good pitcher to shut us down."

The other guy was Brad Penny, who has turned dominant after some early-season struggles. He won his third straight start by scattering five hits over eight innings and in the process lowered his ERA to 4.11. It was 8.44 after his first four starts.

The Royals began the day leading the American League in runs but have scored just once in losing two games to the Tigers. They ran into an in-form Justin Verlander in Friday's opener.

"They were both take-your-hats-off games," manager Ned Yost said. "They didn't make a lot of mistakes. And then you've got (Max) Scherzer (today) who is no walk in the park."

The Royals, at 20-19, must win the series finale to remain above .500 and salvage a .500 road trip that began with two encouraging victories in a three-game visit to New York.

"I said going into this," right fielder Jeff Francoeur said, "that if we could find a way to go 3-3 on this road trip, it would be impressive to me. Obviously, when you start off 2-1 in New York, you'd like to get a little more.