DETROIT -- Prince Fielder belted a two-run home run in the first inning Thursday night, and the Detroit Tigers earned a 4-1 win over the Kansas City Royals in the opener of a five-game series.
Kansas City lost its third in a row. Detroit won its second consecutive game after losing four out of five.
Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez gave up a run on three hits in the first, then pitched four-hit shutout ball over the next 6 1/3 innings. Sanchez (11-7) walked one and struck out five.
A one-out single by Eric Hosmer chased Sanchez in the eighth, but rookie Bruce Rondon quieted the Royals with two quick outs.
Joaquin Benoit, who got the final five outs Wednesday, pitched the ninth and got his 16th save in 16 tries. If manager Jim Leyland sticks to his policy of not working this closer three straight days, Benoit will not be available to pitch either game of Friday's doubleheader.
Fielder's 18th homer of the season gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead, and Detroit pushed the advantage to 4-1 in the fifth.
Brayan Pena singled and was forced at second on a sacrifice attempt by Jose Iglesias. Andy Dirks doubled, his third of four straight hits as the sub for Austin Jackson in the leadoff spot, putting runners on second and third with one out. Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera (115th RBI) followed with run-scoring singles.
The Royals slapped Sanchez with three singles in the opening inning, with Alex Gordon driving in the run. Billy Butler hit into a double play just before the RBI single, limiting the damage.
Kansas City starter Jeremy Guthrie (12-9) allowed four runs on 13 hits in seven innings.
NOTES: Manager Ned Yost is hopeful 3B Mike Moustakas, who hasn't played since Monday due to a sore left calf, will be able to play at some point during the lengthy series. "Moose is getting better," Yost said. "He's still day-to-day." ... Jackson wasn't in Detroit's starting lineup, perhaps because he needs rest and also because he was 4-for-23 against Guthrie. Jackson came in as a defensive replacement in top of ninth. ... Kansas City designated INF Eliot Johnson for assignment to make room for newly acquired INF/OF Emilio Bonifacio. ... Detroit will bring up LHP Jose Alvarez to pitch the second game of Friday's doubleheader, while Kansas City will call up LHP Danny Duffy to work the first game. RHP Justin Verlander will start the opener for the Tigers. RHP James Shields will pitch the nightcap for the Royals.