Kansas City, Mo. — When he was 2-8 with an ERA of nearly 9.00, Darrell May nearly was banished to the bullpen.
But Kansas City manager Tony Pena stuck with the left-hander. And now, after leading the Royals past the slumping Detroit Tigers, 7-3, Wednesday night, May has won three straight decisions and regained confidence.
"It was just a matter of executing pitches consistently and keeping the ball down," May said. "That's been my entire focus the last three or four starts. Right now it seems to be doing it for me."
Dee Brown hit a two-run single that capped a four-run first inning and sent the Tigers to their season-high fifth straight loss. The Tigers made two errors in a three-run eighth inning that raised their major league-leading total to 65.
"We're in a funk," manager Alan Trammell said. "We shot ourselves in the foot, like we've done way too often. We misplayed a couple of balls, and that hurts."
May (5-8) allowed two runs and nine hits in seven innings.
"There's definitely some confidence now," he said. "There's not a lot of searching going on in my mind. I'm not trying to figure stuff out. I'm going out there with a purpose, with one or two things on my mind, and trying to execute those."
Ivan Rodriguez's 10th homer, a two-run shot in the first, quickly put Detroit ahead. But Kansas City took the lead for good in the bottom half when it got three doubles, two singles and two walks off Gary Knotts (4-2).
Mike Sweeney and Joe Randa each had RBI doubles, and Brown hit a two-run single. Tony Graffanino ended the inning by striking out for the second time.
Knotts then settled down and shut out the Royals the next five innings before Esteban Yan relieved to start the seventh. Knotts gave up four runs, eight hits and four walks, and he tied his career-high with nine strikeouts.
"Knotts did a really good job of keeping his team in the game," May said.
Rodriguez, Craig Monroe and Brandon Inge each had three hits for the Tigers, who have lost six of seven and are just two games ahead of last-place Kansas City in the AL Central. Rodriguez had three hits and raised his league-leading average to .364.
In the Kansas City eighth, reliever Franklyn German's fielding error on Alberto Castillo's sacrifice gave the Royals two runners. Center fielder Alex Sanchez then misplayed Graffanino's sinking liner, allowing in a run, and Ken Harvey followed with a a two-run single.
Omar Infante tripled to lead off the ninth and scored on Alex Sanchez's infield out.
Trammell hinted that there could be lineup changes.
"I'll have to think about what I want to do," he said. "It seems like anything I've done of late hasn't worked."
The Tigers had an embarrassing lapse in the bottom of the second when Matt Stairs swung and missed an 0-2 pitch with two outs. Stairs slowly walked back toward the dugout but no Tigers moved. After a moment, they looked around and jogged off the field.
Notes: Kansas City manager Tony Pena was chosen by Joe Torre to be a coach in the All-Star game. Pena was an All-Star catcher five times. ... Randa stretched his hitting streak to nine games. ... The Tigers are 8-26 in Kansas City since 2001.