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Porcello pitches Tigers over Royals

The SportsXchange

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Detroit faced the Kansas City Royals 19 times last year, but somehow Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello never pitched against them.

Porcello pitched a gem against the Royals on Friday night, retiring the final 12 batters he faced and allowing four hits in seven innings as the Tigers cruised to an 8-2 victory.

"Throwing first-pitch strikes I think was the biggest key tonight," Porcello said. "Being ahead 0-1 instead of 1-0 is huge. You can go a lot of different ways when you do that."

Designated hitter Victor Martinez led the offense with three hits, including two doubles, and drove in two runs.

The Tigers have won three straight and five of six to take a three-game lead in the American League Central over the second-place Royals.

"It was a bad game as a team," said Royals designated hitter Billy Butler, who hit his first home run of the year. "That's one of those games you feel like you've got to win. You feel like you had the advantage to win, a must win -- there ain't nothing that's a must win at this point.

"You want to win games like that. You've got your ace (right-hander James Shields) going on the mound. It's unfortunate, but it is what it is. He's (Shields) one of the better pitchers in the game. He's not going to have too many of those.

"It stinks and it's against a division rival, one that we need to pick up games on, but it's early in the year. We've still got a chance to win the series."

The Tigers' 14-hit offensive splurge included catcher Alex Avila hitting a two-run homer and left fielder J.D. Martinez doubling home two runs in a three-run seventh. Right fielder Torii Hunter collected two hits, extending his hitting streak to nine games, and scored two runs. Every Tiger had at least one hit as the club leads the league with a .275 batting average.

Porcello (4-1) won his third straight start, limiting the Royals to four hits -- and none after Butler homered to lead off the fourth. He struck out six and walked none.

Porcello has been in the majors since he was 19, winning 65 games before he reached age 25.

"Rick has really matured dramatically over his time here," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "You have to remember the guy is pretty young. You think he's older."

Shields (3-3), who won his previous three starts, gave up eight runs (seven earned) and a dozen hits in 6 1/3 innings to take the loss.

"That's a good hitting ballclub over there," Shields said. "I wasn't locating my pitches. I was getting behind in the count. I didn't do my job out there, bottom line. I've got to do a better job of getting outs.

"It's just one of those games. Porcello was throwing his sinker on both sides of the plate. He's being aggressive with our hitters. When that guy's on, he's pretty nasty."

Royals catcher Salvador Perez suffered a bruised left shin in the seventh when he fouled a pitch off his leg. Brett Hayes replaced him in the eighth.

The Royals fell to 0-14 when they failed to score at least four runs.

Royals second baseman Omar Infante tripled to right in the first inning and scored on first baseman Eric Hosmer's sacrifice fly for a 1-0 lead.

The Tigers forged ahead 2-1 in the third when right fielder Torii Hunter singled before first baseman Miguel Cabrera and designated hitter Victor Martinez stroked back-to-back RBI doubles. Cabrera entered the game hitting .419 against Shields.

Avila homered after Martinez's double in Detroit's three-run fourth. The other run in the inning was unearned as a result of third baseman Mike Moustakas' throwing error. Detroit's Andrew Romine scored the final run of the inning when Hunter grounded into a double play.

The Royals got a run back in the bottom of the inning. Butler led off with his first home run just inside the left-field foul pole on a 3-1 pitch from Porcello. It was the first home run this season by a Royals cleanup hitter.

Tigers relievers Ian Krol and Evan Reed combined to log six outs on 10 pitches in the final two innings.

NOTES: The Tigers signed free agent RHP Joel Hanrahan, a two-time All-Star who had Tommy John surgery last May, to a one-year contract. Hanrahan was placed on the disabled list and will continue to rehab in Lakeland, Fla. He probably will not join the Detroit bullpen before June as he continues his rehab. ... The Royals placed LHP Bruce Chen on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 25, with a bulging disc. LHP Danny Duffy will take Chen's slot in the rotation, making his first start Saturday. ... The Royals called up RHP Aaron Brooks from Triple-A Omaha, where he was 0-1 with a 4.80 ERA in four games, three of them starts.

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