DETROIT -- Kansas City's improved pitching could make the Royals a factor in the American League Central.
James Shields showed on Thursday why Kansas City gave Tampa Bay a package of prize prospects after last season for him and fellow Royals starter Wade Davis, who lost Wednesday night's game, by pitching eight innings of five-hit, three-run ball to give the Royals a chance.
Late-game insertion George Kottaras drew a tiebreaking, bases-loaded walk in the top of the 10th inning and Alex Gordon followed with a grand slam one out later to give Kansas City an 8-3 win over the Detroit Tigers.
"That's why we sent Shields out for the eighth inning," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "In situations like that, he seems to step it up a notch. He kept us in the game."
With one out, Lorenzo Cain doubled and Mike Moustakas walked. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch, prompting an intentional walk to Jeff Francoeur to set up a force at any base.
Kottaras, who entered the game an inning earlier, drew a five-pitch walk from losing left-hander Phil Coke (0-3) to put the Royals ahead. One out later, Gordon smashed a slam off reliever Darin Downs.
"We know Kottaras is going to give us a good professional at-bat," Yost said. "I said it was going to take three strikes to get him out. They ended up walking him."
The last 16 Detroit batters went down in order, making 17 outs between them, as the Tigers got two of their five hits in the first inning and two in the fifth.
Tim Collins (1-0) struck out two in a perfect ninth to pick up the victory, and Greg Holland worked the 10th as the Royals to split a rain-abbreviated two-game series.
Tigers Rookie Bruce Rondon, whose failure to win the closer's job in the spring led to the re-signing of Jose Valverde, made his major-league debut in the eighth and gave up a tying sacrifice fly to Cain.
Billy Butler singled to open the inning. Pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson stole second and advanced to third on a groundout to set up the sac fly.
"Billy got a big hit for us in the eighth," Yost said. "Normally, we don't like to pinch-run for him in the eighth, but we wanted to tie the game and go from there. Jarrod stole a base for us, got to third and scored."
Justin Verlander was denied his third victory. The right-hander was forced out after the seventh with a weakening blister on his right thumb. He had thrown 96 pitches.
"It's a little bit of a blister," said Verlander, noting one of the reasons he came out was to preserve his next start. "I noticed a bit after my last start and it got worse after the fifth inning.
"It was a joint decision. At this point in the season not to let it become something long term."
Detroit took a 3-2 lead in the fifth when Torii Hunter's one-out single drove in Omar Infante from second base.
Salvador Perez's sacrifice fly in the fourth scored an unearned run to give Kansas City a 2-1 lead, but Detroit tied it in the bottom of the inning on a sacrifice fly to center by Jhonny Peralta. Two wild pitches by Shields after issuing a leadoff walk to Prince Fielder set up the one-out sac fly.
Detroit center fielder Austin Jackson broke an 0-for-23 skid in the first with a leadoff double. Miguel Cabrera scored him with a single to left.
"We're still not firing on all cylinders," Yost said, "and we're still winning games."
NOTES: Two Kansas City pitchers recovering from Tommy John surgery, left-hander Danny Duffy and right-hander Felipe Paulino, are making progress in their comebacks. Duffy recently pitched to hitters in a game, and Paulino threw live batting practice. Duffy was operated on June 13 and Paulino underwent surgery last July 3. ... Right fielder Avisail Garcia, out since late spring training with a right heel contusion, has been assigned to high-Class A Lakeland and will begin a rehab assignment Thursday night. ... Francoeur's outfield assist Wednesday night was his second of the season and the 118th of his career. It's the highest total in the majors since Francoeur broke in during the 2005 season with the Atlanta Braves. ... Left-hander Duane Below, designated for assignment by Detroit on Wednesday, was claimed off waivers by the Miami Marlins and assigned to their triple-A farm club in New Orleans.