Detroit The Kansas City Royals may have another chance next week to spoil Detroit’s bid for a second straight AL Central title.
They sure didn’t make the most of this week’s opportunity.
Doug Fister set an AL record by striking out nine straight batters and the Tigers increased their lead in the division, beating Kansas City 5-4 Thursday on Alex Avila’s grounder in the ninth inning. The Royals lost four straight at Comerica Park and made five errors in the finale.
The Tigers opened a two-game edge over the second-place Chicago White Sox, who lost 3-2 at home to Tampa Bay. Detroit plays a three-game series at Minnesota before finishing up with three games in Kansas City.
Fister struck out Salvador Perez to end the top of the fourth, starting a streak that didn’t end until Perez grounded out to the shortstop on a two-strike pitch in the seventh.
Fister came within one strikeout of matching Tom Seaver’s major league record of 10 in a row.
“His stuff was unbelievable,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “Tremendous movement on his two-seam (fastball). Tremendous movement on his slider. We couldn’t get to it.”
But the Tigers blew a 4-0 lead after seven innings, and Joaquin Benoit (5-3) allowed a solo homer by Billy Butler to tie it in the ninth.
Prince Fielder led off the Detroit ninth with a chopper that went past the mound and charging shortstop Tony Abreu. The hefty slugger made it all the way to second for a double on a ball that only ended up a few feet beyond the infield.
Delmon Young was intentionally walked, and pinch-hitter Ramon Santiago bunted into a forceout at third, leaving runners at first and second. Kelvin Herrera replaced Tim Collins (5-4) on the mound and got Jhonny Peralta to hit what looked like a potential double-play grounder to third, but Mike Moustakas misplayed it for his third error of the game.
Avila hit a full-count pitch to first. Brayan Pena made a diving stop and touched the bag, but had no play at the plate.
“To be honest, it all happened too fast,” Pena said. “I dove and tried to get up.”
Fister finished with 10 strikeouts in 7 2-3 innings. He allowed two earned runs and five hits. He said he didn’t know about the record.
“Honestly, I had no idea,” Fister said. “(Fielder) was yelling at me to step off during the inning, and I kind of looked at him. Normally, he’ll do that, to slow me down, if I’m getting too quick. ... I thought that was kind of what he was doing there. He just said, ‘Hey, step off.’ I look at him, and he kept looking at me, and he said, ‘Aw, I’ll tell you later.’”
Kansas City’s Luis Mendoza allowed two earned runs in seven innings.
Fister retired 16 straight before the Royals broke through in the eighth. Jeff Francoeur hit an RBI double, Johnny Giavotella added an RBI groundout, and Abreu, pinch-hitting, drove in a run with a single to make it 4-3.
Detroit took a 4-0 lead thanks in part to four Kansas City errors in the first two innings.
Moustakas was charged with two errors on one grounder by Quintin Berry — one for mishandling it and another for a bad throw. Fielder later drove in a run with a single, advancing to second on an error by left fielder Alex Gordon.
Young hit a sacrifice fly, and Gordon threw Fielder out at home on a single by Andy Dirks to end the inning.
Berry’s two-run triple in the second made it 4-0.
NOTES: Detroit closer Jose Valverde was sick and unavailable. ... Royals 1B Eric Hosmer left the game with a strained right shoulder. ... The Tigers play at Minnesota tonight. LHP Drew Smyly (4-3) will start because of an injury to Max Scherzer. Minnesota counters with LHP Scott Diamond (12-8). ... Kansas City is at Cleveland. Royals LHP Will Smith (6-8) faces Indians LHP David Huff (2-0).