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Detroit — Tigers starter Francisco Liriano was at 79 pitches when he began the sixth inning. Yes, he had a no-hitter going, but it was extremely unlikely he was going to finish the game — hit or no hit.

“I’ve been there before and it’s never any fun,” manager Ron Gardenhire said when asked if he was sweating the prospect of having to take Liriano out of the game while a no-hit bid was intact. “I know everybody wants the guy to keep going, but I’m not going to let him kill himself this early in the season.

“If he got up over 100 pitches and you are in the seventh inning, you’ll be yelling at me because I will probably end up taking him out of the ballgame. I’m going to be very protective of these guys early in the season.”

Liriano was barely conscious that he had a no-hitter going.

“I wasn’t thinking about that, it was too early in the game,” he said. “When you walk too many guys, you forget that you haven’t given up a hit.”

Liriano had walked three in the first five innings, before he gave up a lead-off home run to Whit Merrifield in the sixth.

“He hung in there,” Gardenhire said. “He misfired a little bit, but that’s what Frankie does. He did exactly what he does. His pitch count will get up there pretty high but he gave us an opportunity to win.”

Liriano didn’t allow any hard contact through five innings, let alone any hits. The average exit velocity on balls put in play by the Royals was 77 mph.

“He’s healthy and he’s doing fine,” Gardenhire said. “He’s a perfect fit for this rotation. He’s going to misfire. He’s going to throw some balls and his pitch count is going to be high at times. He also was filthy. He still has that good stuff.”

AROUND THE HORN

Leonys Martin loves playing defense in Comerica Park. As for hitting in Comerica Park — not so much. “It is a very frustrating place to hit,” he said. He made two lineouts on Saturday, one hit with an exit velocity of 105 mph and the other 103 mph. On Sunday, he made a 400-foot out to center on a ball hit 108 mph and another to right field hit at 105 mph.

… The Tigers made a slight adjustment to their rotation. Jordan Zimmermann, a right-hander, was moved up to pitch the first game in Pittsburgh Tuesday. Matthew Boyd, a left-hander, was moved back to Wednesday. “We just wanted to break up the two lefties,” Gardenhire said. Zimmermann is now sandwiched between lefties Liriano and Boyd.

… James McCann extended his hit streak to six games. He’s hitting .348 with four RBIs in that stretch.

… Dixon Machado hit his eighth double of the season, which is tied for the American League lead.

… Miguel Cabrera hit .423 (11 for 26) on the home stand with five RBIs.

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