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DETROIT (AP) — Justin Verlander breezed through eight innings and Prince Fielder hit a solo homer, helping the Detroit Tigers steady themselves with a 6-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Monday night.
Detroit entered one game behind the first-place Chicago White Sox in the AL Central after being swept in a doubleheader by Minnesota on Sunday. Verlander (16-8) had little trouble with the Royals, who knocked him around for eight runs and 12 hits last month.
The right-hander allowed two runs and nine hits this time, striking out eight without a walk. Jose Valverde pitched the ninth.
Luke Hochevar (8-15) yielded six runs — five earned — and 12 hits in 7 1-3 innings.
Alex Gordon homered for Kansas City.
The Tigers play three more games at home against the Royals before finishing the regular season with a six-game trip to Minnesota and Kansas City.
Fielder opened the scoring in the second with his 28th homer, and Alex Avila hit an RBI double later in the inning.
Gordon’s 12th home run in the fourth cut the lead in half, and the Royals appeared poised to tie it in the fifth when they put runners on first and third with one out.
With Jarrod Dyson batting, Verlander appeared to hurt his left shoulder in bizarre fashion. Avila, the catcher, was making a routine throw back to the pitcher when his arm collided with the hand of plate umpire Bill Welke, causing the ball to scoot low across the ground in front of the mound. Verlander lunged to stop it and grimaced as he got up.
He was able to stay in the game — and struck out Dyson and Alcides Escobar to end the threat.
The Tigers padded their lead in the bottom half with another wacky play. With runners on first and second, Austin Jackson hit an RBI double down the right-field line, and another run came home when Jeff Francoeur’s throw to second skipped away for an error. Gordon, the left fielder, retrieved the ball and easily threw out Jackson trying to advance to third — earning an assist on a play that began on the opposite side of the outfield.
Andy Dirks made it 5-1 with an RBI single in the sixth.
Billy Butler had three hits for the Royals, including an RBI single in the eighth. He’s hitting .396 (21 for 53) off Verlander.
Dirks answered with another RBI single of his own.
Miguel Cabrera singled to extend his hitting streak to 14 games.
NOTES: Verlander threw 114 pitches, 89 for strikes. … Jim Leyland won his 600th game as Detroit’s manager. … Verlander took over the major league lead with 231 strikeouts, three more than teammate Max Scherzer. … Hochevar allowed nine runs in four innings against the Tigers on May 1. … Detroit RHP Anibal Sanchez (3-6) faces Kansas City LHP Bruce Chen (11-12) on Tuesday night.
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