Detroit Bruce Chen baffled the Detroit Tigers for most of the afternoon, and when someone finally hit a ball hard, his fielders were there to halt a promising rally.
Chen allowed three hits over six impressive innings, and the Kansas City Royals beat the Tigers, 3-1, on Saturday.
The left-hander’s final pitch was hit to the left-field corner by Magglio Ordonez for a double, but outfielder Alex Gordon chased down the ball, and Alcides Escobar’s relay to the plate beat Detroit’s Will Rhymes, who tried to score from first.
“That was a huge play. I felt like I pitched well, but my defense has been great,” Chen said. “Gordon hustled to get to that ball, and Escobar made a real good throw.”
Wilson Betemit and Escobar drove in runs in the second inning for Kansas City, and Jeff Francoeur added a sacrifice fly in the ninth. The Royals’ previous four wins all came in their last at-bat, but they needed no dramatics this time with Chen (1-0) protecting the early lead.
“Chen shows that you don’t have to throw 95 miles an hour to get outs when you have command of every pitch,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “You can throw backdoor sliders and you can paint the black. All we can do is tip our hat to him. He pitched a fantastic game.”
Chen allowed a third-inning single to Casper Wells, then retired 10 in a row.
Chen came out after 82 pitches. He struck out seven and walked one. The Tigers didn’t fare much better against four relievers.
Joakim Soria pitched the ninth and allowed a two-out home run by Ryan Raburn before holding on for his second save.
Phil Coke (0-2) pitched well in his first start of the season for the Tigers, allowing two runs and three hits in 62⁄3 innings.
Butler, who also had a double, extended his hitting streak to seven games, and 21 straight against the Tigers.