It seems like a very long time ago that the Royals came into Detroit and took first place away from the Tigers. KC’s victory on June 18 put them 1.5 up – since then, the Tigers are 17-5, the Royals 8-14, and Detroit has turned a 1.5 game deficit into a 7.5 game lead. With their 5-1 win on Saturday, the Tigers also moved to a season-high 16 games above .500 – that’s right, the Tigers are officially above the .500 mark since 27-12 happened.
Rick Porcello was in and out of trouble all day, inducing a couple of key double play balls and even getting a couple important strikeouts to keep the Royals off the board. In the second, it was a strikeout and a double play with runners at the corners and nobody out. In the fifth, a double, walk, and groundout put runners at the corners with one out, but Rick got a weak fly ball and, eventually, a strikeout to escape that. He limited the damage to a sac fly in the sixth following a pair of one out singles. Porcello ended up going seven, allowing six hits, one run, three strikeouts, and three uncharacteristic walks.
Of course, the Tigers still needed runs. They struck in the third with two outs against KC ace James Shields with an Austin Jackson double and an Ian Kinsler single. In the fourth, Torii Hunter tripled before an Alex Avila fly ball single brought him in with two out. Those two runs held up – barely – until the 9th, when the Tigers used a pair of homers – a solo shot by J.D. Martinez and a two-run blast from Alex Avila – to turn a close game into a rather comfortable finish.
The Tigers can end the first half with a sweep tomorrow as Justin Verlander opposes the old nemesis Bruce Chen. A win would put the Tigers a season-high 8.5 up in the division (in fact, the 7.5 they are now is also a new season high!)