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The Detroit Tigers have been in sole possession of the lead in the American League Central Division for just about the whole season. The Kansas City Royals are trying to change that. The Royals won their eighth straight game on Monday with an 11-8 victory over the Tigers to pull within a half game of the division lead.
Detroit struck first in the game, with one run in each of the third and fourth innings. The Royals’ offense came alive in the fifth, when they opened up a 4-2 lead. After an RBI single off the bat of second baseman Omar Infante, clean hitter Billy Butler belted a three-run, bases-clearing double to deep center.
The following inning, Infante did more damage to his former team and smacked a three-run home run to left.
The sixth inning was it for Tigers starter Justin Verlander, who allowed seven runs on 12 hits and only recorded two strikeouts.
“We’re just playing on all cylinders,” Butler said after the game on MLB.com. “We know Verlander’s tough. He hadn’t pitched well as of late, but that doesn’t mean a thing.”
Verlander has allowed five or more runs in six of his last seven starts. He is the second former Cy Young award winner to struggle in such a fashion; the other was Gaylord Perry, reports the Elias Sports Bureau.
In the seventh inning, the Royals added four more runs to build their lead up to nine runs. Center fielder Lorenzo Cain started the scoring off with an RBI base hit. Then third baseman Mike Moustakas grounded back to Tigers reliever Evan Reed, who allowed two runs to score on a throwing error. Shortstop Alcides Escobar brought in the final run of the inning with a single to left.
Trailing 11-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Tigers’ bats finally found some pop. With the bases loaded and nobody out, left fielder Rajai Davis singled to left to score one run. Two strikeouts ensued before clean-up hitter Victor Martinez beat out an infield hit and drove in a run. Right fielder J.D. Martinez came up next and rocketed a 393-foot grand slam to left to make the score 11-8. Center fielder Austin Jackson struck out looking to end the game.
Royals reliever Donnie Joseph gave up all six runs in the ninth, while only recording two outs in his first appearance of the season. His ERA stands at 81.00.
Kansas City starter Jason Vargas picked up his seventh win of the year, going seven innings and giving up two runs on seven hits, according to ESPN.
The Royals, who have won 11 of their last 13, will look to take first place in the division on Tuesday night in game two of the four-game set.