Prince Fielder homered and Justin Verlander tossed eight solid innings, as the Detroit Tigers defeated the Kansas City Royals, 6-2, in the opener of a four-game series.
Andy Dirks knocked in two runs for the Tigers, who remained one game behind the White Sox for first place in the AL Central. Chicago beat the Indians, 5-4, on Monday.
Verlander (16-8) gave up two runs on nine hits while striking out eight for Detroit, which snapped a two-game skid. The right-hander improved to 12-7 in 23 career starts against Kansas City.
"It's not like every game's a must-win," Verlander said, "but it's getting close to that point. It's a lot of pressure on us, but I think this team thrives under pressure. And if we start winning a few of these ballgames that switches everything and puts the pressure on the White Sox."
Alex Gordon hit a solo homer for the Royals, who have lost two straight since a four-game winning streak. Billy Butler went 3-for-4 with an RBI.
Luke Hochevar (8-15) allowed six runs -- five earned -- on 12 hits over 7 1/3 innings. He fell to 1-6 over his last 10 starts.
The Tigers scored two runs in the second inning. Fielder led off with a homer to right. Jhonny Peralta reached base on a fielder's choice and crossed the plate on Alex Avila's two-out double to right-center field.
Gordon's homer to left in the fourth cut the gap to 2-1.
But Detroit tacked on two more runs in the fifth. Avila walked and Omar Infante singled to put men on first and second with one out. Austin Jackson followed with an RBI double down the right-field line. Jeff Francoeur's throwing error allowed Infante to score on the play too.
The Tigers added another run in the sixth to make it a 5-1 contest. Miguel Cabrera led off with a single, moved to third on Delmon Young's base hit and scored on Dirks' sacrifice fly.
Each team scored one run in the eighth. In the top half, Alcides Escobar doubled and raced home on Butler's single to center.
"He's always tough like that, and he's pitching with a little more life," Butler said of Verlander. "They're fighting for the playoffs, so you know you're going to get his best."
Fielder and Young hit consecutive one-out singles in the bottom half. Nathan Adcock came in from the bullpen and gave up an RBI single to Dirks.
Jose Valverde tossed a scoreless ninth to secure the victory.
The Tigers lead the season series by an 8-4 margin ... Hochevar fell to 4-6 in 13 career meetings against Detroit ... Cabrera extended his hitting streak to 14 games ... Jackson went 3-for-4.