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Tigers try to hold lead in Central, conclude set with Royals

Right-hander Doug Fister takes the mound for the newly- minted front-runners in the American League Central Division - the Detroit Tigers - when they battle the Kansas City Royals in the finale of a four-game series at Comerica Park.

The Tigers took over sole possession of the division lead for the first time since July 23 on Wednesday night, when pinch-runner Don Kelly scored the go- ahead run in the eighth inning and Detroit beat Kansas City, 5-4.

Meanwhile, the Chicago White Sox lost in Cleveland to fall a game off the pace.

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.

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 won seven of the first 11 games between the teams in 2012, though Kansas City swept a three-game set at Kauffman Stadium from Aug. 28-30. Detroit won the 2011 season series, 11-7.

Meanwhile, Fister has won three of his last four starts in September and is 6-2 in his last eight outings while the Tigers have gone 7-3.

He tossed the fifth complete game of his career in his most recent start on Sept. 22 against Minnesota, allowing seven hits and striking out seven in an 8-0 victory - the first shutout of his career.

A start earlier, Fister was ripped for five runs on eight hits in four innings of a 5-4 loss to the White Sox in Chicago.

He's split four lifetime decisions in six career outings against the Royals while posting a 4.04 earned run average in 35 2/3 innings.

Kansas City goes with Mexican-born righty Luis Mendoza, who snapped a string of four straight no-decisions with a defeat of the Indians on Sept. 21.

Mendoza, who fell to 7-9 in 2012 with a 5-3 loss at Tampa Bay on Aug. 22, went on to allow 26 hits and 14 runs in meetings with Detroit, Minnesota and the White Sox (twice) while the Royals were 3-1 in those games.

The Tigers game on Aug. 28 in Kansas City was a 9-8 win for the Royals, as Mendoza was tagged for six runs on seven hits in five innings.

He's 1-1 in eight career matchups with Detroit while toting a bloated 9.30 ERA in 20 1/3 innings.