KANSAS CITY, MO. -- This three-game series began Friday night with the Royals two games behind the first-place Tigers in the AL Central. With a sweep, the Royals would take over first place at this early juncture of the season.
Perhaps the Royals will make it a race this season. But in the series opener, the Tigers pounded the Royals No. 1 starter, and the Tigers No. 4 starter subdued the Royals.
Rick Porcello allowed four hits over seven innings and the Tigers prevailed, 8-2. KC came within 5-2 on Billy Butler's leadoff homer in the fourth, and then Porcello retired the remaining 12 hitters he faced.
"Especially coming out of my last game, where I felt I was in control against Minnesota and didn't finish strong, tonight it was nice to finish strong," Porcello said. "That was important."
The Tigers jumped on James Shields for eight runs (seven earned) and 12 hits. The outburst against him included a pair of doubles by Victor Martinez and Alex Avila's first homer of the season, a two-run drive in the fourth that made it 4-1.
The Tigers won their third straight and went to a season-high six games over .500. They increased their lead to three games on second-place KC, which fell to .500.
In Shields' last two starts against the Tigers in his home park, Shields has allowed 17 earned runs.
The game began for the Tigers with two hard outs to center. In the second, Martinez doubled to begin an inning in which the Tigers loaded the bases with two out. Then Andrew Romine flied to center. Were the Tigers letting Shields escape on a rocky night?
The breakthrough came with one out in the third. Torii Hunter singled, and Miguel Cabrera brought him home with a line-drive double that landed in the left-field corner. Martinez pulled a double over the head of rightfielder Nori Aoki to score Cabrera.
Next inning, J.D. Martinez led off with a double high off the fence. Avila was next, and he walloped Shields' next pitch to right. It kept carrying and went over the fence. With his first homer of the season, Avila had doubled his RBI total for the season from two to four.
Romine followed with a single, took second on Kinsler's infield single, went to third when third baseman Mike Moustakas' throw was off target, and scored an unearned when Hunter grounded into a double play. The Tigers led, 5-1.
Each of Porcello's six strikeouts contained a point of how he was in command. The first was looking against Aoki to open the first; the last was looking against Moustakas to complete his outing.
After he allowed a first-inning run on Omar Infante's triple and a sacrifice fly, Porcello fanned Butler to end the inning. After a two-out double in the second, he fanned Alcides Escobar, the Royals' best hitter this season. After Butler opened the fourth with his homer, Porcello quelled any idea a rally was brewing. He retired the next three hitters, two via strikeout.
The Royals never had another runner. Asked if this indeed qualified as his first low-stress game as manager, Brad Ausmus said, "Lower stress."
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