Detroit, MI – Pinch-runner Don Kelly scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning, helping the Detroit Tigers sneak past the Kansas City Royals, 5-4, in the third test of a four-game series.
With runners on the corners and one out, Detroit's Jhonny Peralta hit a grounder to Mike Moustakas, and the Royals' third baseman threw to second in an attempt to start a double play. Andy Dirks, though, made a great slide into second base to prevent a throw to first. Kelly scored on the play to give Detroit the lead.
"I was just going in hard and trying to make a good, clean, hard slide, and that's what I did," Dirks said.
Jose Valverde tossed a scoreless ninth to secure the victory for the Tigers, who moved one game ahead of the White Sox for first place in the AL Central. Chicago lost to Cleveland on Wednesday.
The Tigers are atop the AL Central by themselves for the first time since July 23.
Alex Avila and Austin Jackson homered for Detroit, which has won the first three games in this series.
Rick Porcello got the start for the Tigers and gave up four runs on seven hits over four innings. Joaquin Benoit (4-3) tossed a scoreless eighth to pick up the win.
Jeff Francoeur hit a solo homer for the Royals, who have dropped four straight. David Lough, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler added an RBI apiece.
Kansas City starter Jeremy Guthrie allowed four runs on seven hits over seven innings. Kelvin Herrera (4-3) gave up one run on two hits in the eighth to take the loss.
"The home runs were big swings for them. When I let 'em out of the hand, I didn't expect them to go like they did," Guthrie said. "But both hitters did a real nice job of putting the good part of the bat [on it] and driving it really hard."
The Tigers got on the board in the second inning after Delmon Young doubled to left-center field and raced home on Dirks' single up the middle. Detroit stranded runners on second and third later in the frame.
Kansas City responded with three runs in the third to take the lead. Irving Falu led off with a double to right and crossed the plate on Lough's double down the left-field line. Lough scored two batters later on Gordon's bloop double to center, and Butler followed with an RBI single up the middle to make it 3-1.
Francoeur's solo homer to left in the fourth gave Kansas City a three-run margin. However, the Tigers hit a pair of homers in the bottom half to tie the game.
Peralta worked a one-out walk and scored on Avila's home run to right-center field to pull Detroit within one. Two batters later, Jackson homered to left- center field to make it 4-4.
The Royals' defense helped keep it a tie game in the bottom of the fifth. Miguel Cabrera led off with a high fly ball to left, with Gordon making a jumping catch at the wall to take a homer away. Following a Prince Fielder single, Kansas City shortstop Alcides Escobar made an over-the-shoulder catch on a ball hit by Young before Dirks fouled out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the eighth, Young reached base on an infield single and was replaced by Kelly, who stole second with one out. Dirks followed with a single to left to put men on the corners for Peralta.
The Tigers lead the season series by a 10-4 margin ... Kansas City went 3- for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded five ... Detroit went 2- for-9 with RISP and left six men on ... Valverde picked up his 32nd save of the season ... The Tigers earned their first one-run victory in a month after 11 one-run losses since Aug. 24.