A routine slide into second that was anything but routine gave the Detroit Tigers their first one-run victory since Aug. 23 -- and their first undisputed hold on first place in the AL Central since July 23.
In the eighth inning against the Kansas City Royals, Andy Dirks singled pinch runner Don Kelly to third with one out and then broke up a potential double play with a hard, aggressive slide into second that upended the second baseman, Irving Falu, and let Kelly cross the plate with the winning run.
The Tigers beat the Royals 5-4, and when the Chicago White Sox fell 6-4 to the Cleveland Indians, Detroit was on top of the division standings.
Kelly pinch-ran for Delmon Young, who hit a one-out single, and then stole second.
"That was probably one of my top slides," Dirks said. "I was on him pretty good."
"That was good, clean, hard-nosed baseball," manager Jim Leyland said. "Quietly, that was a good baseball game."
Detroit scored on a Dirks double in the second. After Rick Porcello gave up three in the third and one in the fourth, the Tigers tied the score in the bottom of the fourth on a two-run home run by Alex Avila and a solo home run by Austin Jackson.
The pivotal play, though, was Dirks' slide. With runners on first and third and one out, Jhonny Peralta hit a grounder to third that said "double play" all the way into Mike Moustakas' glove.
"My first reaction when the ball was hit was that he was going home," Kelly said. "Then when I saw the catcher wasn't preparing for the throw, I looked to second and saw (Falu) in the air."
"I saw the third baseman field it," Dirks said. "Then I looked at second, that's my next focus right there."
The Royals made several excellent defensive plays, and so did the Tigers.
Kansas City's Alex Gordon reached over the left field wall to take a home run away from Miguel Cabrera. After a base hit, Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar ran into dead center to take a hit away from Young. Falu robbed Avila of a base hit in the sixth.
Detroit's infield gets criticized, and rightly so in most instances, but Cabrera went over the third base bag and threw out the speedy Escobar in the first with a snap throw while he was flat-footed. Omar Infante followed by getting a ball up the middle and throwing the batter out.
Leyland called for a pitchout out one after Falu singled to start the seventh -- and Avila threw a strike to second to retire the runner.