Detroit The Kansas City Royals gave themselves a chance to cut into Detroit’s lead in the AL Central with an impressive, doubleheader sweep in which they held the Tigers to only one run.
Kansas City, though, couldn’t prevent Miguel Cabrera from lifting the Tigers to two straight wins to take the five-game series.
Cabrera hit his 40th home run, a day after leading off the ninth with a game-winning homer, and had an RBI single to help Max Scherzer become baseball’s first 18-game winner this season as Detroit beat the Royals 6-3 Sunday.
“We had a chance to win the series,” Kansas City manager Ned Yost lamented after his team beat Detroit by a combined score of 5-1 in two games Friday night.
The Royals tried to pitch around Cabrera, but he hit pitches inside and outside off the plate.
Cabrera became the third player since 1921 to have at least 40 homers and 120 RBIs while batting .350 or better through 116 games, joining Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx, according to STATS.
Yost said before the game that intentionally walking Cabrera wasn’t a good option because Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez hit behind him.
After Cabrera hit a two-run homer in the first inning and a run-scoring single in the third, Yost chose to give Cabrera a free pass in the fifth inning with a runner on third and Fielder followed with an inning-ending groundout. Cabrera has eight homers in 13 games.
“I’d like to pitch around him,” Yost said. “You don’t want to throw a strike that he can hit. We threw him a strike. That’s my fault.”
The reigning Triple Crown winner leads the majors in batting (.360) and RBIs (120). His home run pulled him within four of Baltimore’s Chris Davis for the big league lead, then Davis hit his 45th later in the day.
Bruce Chen (5-1) allowed six earned runs — more than he had given up in his last six starts — on eight hits over 5 1-3 innings.
Chen didn’t regret either of the two pitches he threw to Cabrera that were hit, watching him pull an outside fastball and a cutter several inches inside.
“When he’s on, I don’t think you can throw anything around him,” Chen said.
Cabrera connected a day after his leadoff home run in the ninth inning beat Kansas City. The Royals lost three of five this weekend and left Comerica Park in third place, trailing the AL Central-leading Tigers by 8½ games.
“This club is not going away,” Leyland said, referring to the Royals. “Cleveland is not going away.”
Joaquin Benoit entered in the ninth in a non-save situation and gave up a solo homer to the first batter he faced, Billy Butler, on a 1-2 pitch to let the Royals pull within three runs.
Scherzer (18-1) gave up two runs on five hits over eight innings. Scherzer and Roger Clemens are the pitchers since 1919 to have 18 wins in their first 19 decisions as starters, STATS said.
“He didn’t give us too many chances to have scoring opportunities,” Yost said. “He had three pitches that he was throwing for strikes.”
Austin Jackson led off with a single on Chen’s second pitch and Cabrera followed with a line drive over the left-field wall.
Cabrera put Detroit up 3-0 in the third with a single, taking advantage of a pitch to hit when Yost chose not to walk him with Torii Hunter on second base.
Hunter’s sacrifice fly in the fifth gave the Tigers a four-run lead. They went ahead 6-0 in the sixth on Brayan Pena’s double, which chased Chen, and Ramon Santiago’s single on Louis Coleman’s first pitch.
The Royals had only one hit through three innings and two after six innings. They scored two runs on three hits in the seventh against Scherzer. Salvador Perez had an RBI groundout and Emilio Bonifacio pulled Kansas City without four runs with a run-scoring double.
NOTES: The Royals will play the Chicago White Sox at home on Tuesday night after an off-day. ... Kansas City kept 3B Mike Moustakas out of the lineup as planned, a day after he returned from an injured left calf. ... Scherzer and Chen were the first pitchers to enter a game with a combined record of 22-1, with both having at least five decisions, since 1919, STATS said. ... Kansas City LF Alex Gordon made quite a catch, getting to Martinez’s fly and holding onto the ball after hitting the wall hard and falling on his back in a daze.