While the Detroit Tigers own a comfortable lead in the AL Central, they have a chance to really distance themselves from one of the teams in pursuit.
Detroit tries to extend its season-high home winning streak to 10 on Thursday night when it opens a five-game set against the Kansas City Royals .
The Tigers (70-49) had dropped three straight and four of five before bouncing back with Wednesday's 6-4 road win over the Chicago White Sox. Miguel Cabrera , who has six homers and 14 RBIs over the last eight days, stayed hot with a three-run shot to help Detroit conclude a 6-4 trip.
"It was a tough road trip, a battle," Torii Hunter told the Tigers' official website. "We enjoy this day and we've got five with a team that's behind us, chasing us."
The Tigers remained six games ahead of Cleveland but moved 7 1/2 games in front of the third-place Royals (62-56), who had won 17 of 20 before suffering back-to-back losses to Miami. Kansas City took a 2-1 lead into the seventh inning Wednesday, but Elliot Johnson 's error proved costly in a 5-2 defeat."It's a tough one to swallow, but at the same time, we've got to look ahead," Eric Hosmer said. "We've got five games in Detroit. We can make up some serious ground. There's a lot of time. We've got to forget about this one and be ready to go tomorrow."
The Royals have taken five of eight in the series this year, but they could have their hands full at Comerica Park, where the Tigers have outscored opponents 53-10 during their winning streak.
Detroit will try to keep things going behind Anibal Sanchez (10-7, 2.58 ERA), who is 6-2 with a 2.08 ERA and 70 strikeouts in eight home starts spanning 56 1-3 innings.
Sanchez has posted a 1.63 ERA during a season-high three-game winning streak, and he had everything working again Saturday in a 9-3 road win over the New York Yankees . He yielded four hits and struck out eight over seven innings of two-run ball.
Sanchez allowed the game's only run and a season-high five walks in six innings in a hard-luck 1-0 loss at Kansas City on July 19. He is 1-2 in the series despite a 0.82 ERA.
Hosmer is 1 for 9 in their matchups, and Mike Moustakas is 1 for 7. Moustakas, though, is uncertain to play after missing the last two games with a strained left calf.
With Moustakas banged up and fellow infielder Miguel Tejada on the disabled list, Kansas City acquired Emilio Bonifacio from Toronto in exchange for cash or a player to be named later Wednesday. The switch-hitting Bonifacio was batting .218 with three homers and 12 stolen bases in 94 games, but he provides plenty of versatility in the field.
The Royals give the ball to Jeremy Guthrie (12-8, 4.10), who had won a season-high four consecutive starts before yielding five runs and 10 hits in six innings in a 5-3 loss to Boston on Saturday. The right-hander dropped to 2-5 with a 4.76 ERA over his last eight road starts.
Guthrie was tagged for five runs and 10 hits in six innings but earned the victory in a 6-5 win over the Tigers on July 20, improving to 4-0 with a 3.86 ERA in his last five outings in the series. Guthrie, though, is 0-1 with a 6.19 ERA in his last three appearances in Detroit.
|Kansas City Royals|
|August 13, 2013||Mike Moustakas||Day-to-Day||Strained left calf|
|August 11, 2013||Miguel Tejada||60-Day DL||Strained right calf|
|August 09, 2013||Lorenzo Cain||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
|August 04, 2013||Salvador Perez||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|August 04, 2013||David Lough||Day-to-Day||Right quad tightness|
|August 04, 2013||Salvador Perez||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|August 11, 2013||Alex Avila||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|July 31, 2013||Miguel Cabrera||Day-to-Day||Strained lower abdomen|
|July 31, 2013||Luis Marte||15-Day DL||Recovery from right shoulder surgery|
|July 25, 2013||Torii Hunter||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore left Achilles|
|July 23, 2013||Miguel Cabrera||Day-to-Day||Strained left hip flexor|
|July 14, 2013||Justin Verlander||Day-to-Day||Left game - Right quadriceps tightness|
DETROIT (AP) -- Prince Fielder went three weeks without a homer, and the Detroit Tigers kept right on rolling.
Now that drought's over - and Fielder's team is sitting pretty in the AL Central.
Fielder's two-run shot in the first inning Thursday night sent the Tigers to a 4-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals . Andy Dirks added four hits for Detroit, which leads second-place Cleveland by 6 1/2 games in the division.
"Prince produces runs. I don't care how he does it," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "Tonight happened to be by way of the home run, but he's a run producer, always has been. It's in the book and it'll be in the book at the end of this year."
Dirks had two doubles and two singles for the Tigers, who took the opener of this five-game series with third-place Kansas City. The Royals have lost three in a row after a 17-3 stretch that put them in contention for a postseason spot.
Kansas City now trails Detroit by 8 1/2 games in the division. The Royals are 5 1/2 behind Oakland in the race for a wild card.
Detroit's Anibal Sanchez (11-7) allowed a run and seven hits in 7 1-3 innings. Bruce Rondon finished the eighth, and Joaquin Benoit pitched a hitless ninth for his 16th save in 16 chances.
Jeremy Guthrie (12-9) allowed four runs and 13 hits in seven innings.
Fielder went deep for the first time since July 24, belting a towering drive to right-center to give Detroit a 2-1 lead. The Tigers scored two more runs in the fifth on RBI singles by Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera .
Dirks, batting leadoff because Austin Jackson had the night off, scored twice. It was the second four-hit game of the season for Dirks, who is from Kansas and went to Wichita State.
"It felt good. It's hard to explain - it's just one of those `feel' things," Dirks said. "I could feel the path of the bat as I was swinging. My timing was better and everything just clicks. Your legs work with your hands and different things."
The Tigers won despite an atrocious night on the bases. Dirks led off the Detroit third with a double, and then was caught in a rundown when Hunter grounded to the mound. After Dirks was tagged out, the Royals got a double play because Hunter had turned too far around first.
In the sixth, Brayan Pena took too much of a turn after hitting a single, and he too was caught off the bag.
Kansas City, meanwhile, stole three bases, but the Royals couldn't break through against Sanchez after scoring a run in the first inning.
"We had a good scouting report today," Kansas City's Alex Gordon said. "When you're not hitting doubles and home runs, you've got to make something happen."
Gordon's RBI single made it 1-0, but Dirks singled to start the bottom of the first, and Fielder went deep for his 18th homer of the season.
The Royals had a man on second in the second, a man on third in the fourth and then a man on second again in the fifth. But they were 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
After a double by Dirks in the fifth, Detroit had men on second and third with one out. Hunter singled to make it 3-1, and Cabrera's fly ball to center dropped in front of Jarrod Dyson for another run.
Cabrera, who has been bothered by hip and leg injuries lately, made a nice sliding catch in foul territory near third base on an eighth-inning popup by Gordon.
"He's obviously playing in some pain," Leyland said. "Just a gutty performance, day after day. You know, we've got a lot of guys that go out there all the time - and I don't want to slight Miggy, because he's been going out there and playing. There's not too many guys that could do what he's doing, under the circumstances, but we've got a lot of guys that go out there."
NOTES: Emilio Bonifacio , acquired by Kansas City on Wednesday in a trade with Toronto, went 1 for 4 with a stolen base. ... A concession stand was closed after a small grease fire about three hours before the first pitch sent smoke high into the air behind the scoreboard in LF, but the situation was under control quickly and hardly anyone on the field at the time seemed to notice. ... Detroit and Kansas City play a doubleheader Friday. The Tigers send RHP Justin Verlander (12-8) to the mound in the opener against Royals LHP Danny Duffy (0-0). Detroit LHP Jose Alvarez (1-2) faces Kansas City RHP James Shields (7-8) in the nightcap.