KANSAS CITY, Mo. – This was not the way the Detroit Tigers wanted to head into their next series.
Jeremy Guthrie pitched effectively into the eighth inning and Alex Gordon homered to lead the Kansas City Royals over Detroit 2-1 on Thursday night for a three-game sweep.
Prince Fielder had three hits for the slumping Tigers, who remained three games behind the first-place Chicago White Sox in the AL Central. The teams begin an important three-game set Friday night in Detroit.
"You just turn the page," Tigers starter Rick Porcello said. "We're a much better team than what we showed here. Chicago comes to town tomorrow. It's a big series. Everybody should be excited. It's a chance to pick up some ground."
The Tigers had 12 hits, but 11 of them were singles. They went 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11 overall.
"We scattered a lot of hits," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "We couldn't get the big hit. We got hits to lead off innings and couldn't do anything with them. We got two-out hits and that ended it. We certainly had enough hits and we had a chance there at the end."
Royals rookie Kelvin Herrera worked around a walk and a single in the ninth to earn his first career save, coaxing slugger Miguel Cabrera to ground into a game-ending double play.
Guthrie's big effort came one night after teammate Bruce Chen beat the Tigers 1-0.
"Guthrie and Chen did a great job the past two nights, especially against this offense. It's pretty tough to do, to shut them down to one run in 18 innings," Gordon said. "Our bullpen came in and did the job again. The home run was a key at-bat and gave us the win."
Kansas City roughed up Justin Verlander in the series opener and won all three games by one run.
"Close ballgames, high intensity in the ninth inning, so it was a good team win — all three of them," Gordon said.
Guthrie (3-3), who did not give up a hit to the White Sox until the eighth inning on Aug. 19 in his previous Kauffman Stadium start, held Detroit to one run on 10 hits — nine of them singles. He walked none and struck out three.
"The biggest thing was I was able to keep nine of them to singles and just allow the one extra-base hit. That was kind of the big key in allowing the hits, but not the runs," Guthrie said.
Guthrie has made eight starts for the Royals since they acquired him in a July 20 trade with Colorado for left-hander Jonathan Sanchez. He is 6-12 overall.
"Spectacular pitching again by Jeremy Guthrie," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Great defense, a huge double play to end the ballgame. We had a couple of opportunities to add on, but two runs was enough."
Gordon hit his 10th homer leading off the sixth and extended his hitting streak to eight games.
The Royals loaded the bases with none out in the fifth, but converted that into just one run. Mike Moustakas doubled to start the inning and Jeff Francoeur singled on the 10th pitch to snap an 0-for-19 streak. After Eric Hosmer walked to load the bases, Johnny Giavotella's groundout to shortstop Jhonny Peralta scored Moustakas.
Porcello (9-10) lost his fourth straight start, giving up two runs and eight hits in five-plus innings. He struck out four and walked two.
The right-hander threw 35 pitches in the fifth and gave up three hits on seven pitches in the sixth before being pulled.
"With the amount of pitches I threw, I kind of hit a wall," Porcello said. "Francoeur put a really good at-bat on me. I threw him a lot of pitches. I was fortunate to just give up one run. In the sixth inning I tried to get us back in the dugout and it didn't happen."
The Tigers snapped a 17-inning scoreless drought with a run in the eighth when one-out singles by Fielder and Delmon Young chased Guthrie. After reliever Tim Collins struck out pinch-hitter Jeff Baker on three pitches, Peralta delivered a run-scoring single.
"We didn't have a lot of runners in scoring position. We just haven't been able to hit a double with guys on. We can't get that gapper," Leyland said.
NOTES: CF Jarrod Dyson was held out of the Royals' lineup with a sore right shoulder. ... Tigers first base coach Tom Brookens missed his second straight game for personal reasons, but is expected to rejoin the club Friday in Detroit. ... Tigers RHP Doug Fister, who missed his previous start with a groin injury, will return Friday and start against the White Sox. Rookie LHP Drew Smyly, who has made 16 starts, moves to the bullpen with Fister back in the rotation. RHP Jake Peavy will start for Chicago.