The Detroit Tigers have won six games in a row to tie their longest winning streak of the season.
A four-run fifth inning, highlighted by Javier Báez's 16th home run of the season, bolstered an early lead in Thursday's 10-3 win to sweep the Kansas City Royals in three games at Comerica Park.
The Tigers (63-92), by winning eight of their past nine games, jumped the Royals by half a game for fourth place in the American League Central. For the first time since Aug. 3, the Tigers aren't in last place in the division. More good news: Thursday's victory guaranteed the Tigers won't lose 100 games this season.
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Catcher Tucker Barnhart finished 3-for-3 with one walk and two RBIs.
In his 16th start, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez put the Tigers on the right track by completing 6⅔ scoreless innings, throwing 64 of 102 pitches for strikes. The 29-year-old allowed five hits and four walks with three strikeouts.
The Royals advanced a runner into scoring position in the first, second, third, sixth and seventh innings but failed to score until the eighth.
Rodriguez walked three batters in the seventh inning but benefited from a double play between the first two free passes. His two-out walk of Bobby Witt Jr. led to manager A.J. Hinch's pitching change.
Right-handed reliever Jason Foley cleaned up Rodriguez's mess in the seventh with a groundout. Rodriguez generated 14 swings and misses, including seven from his changeup, while the Royals averaged an 81.9 mph exit velocity on 22 balls in play.
Foley surrendered three runs in the eighth inning.
The offense backed Rodriguez early on, thanks to Willi Castro's solo home run to right-center field in the second inning. His eighth homer of the year put the Tigers ahead 1-0 against Royals right-hander Jonathan Heasley.
Heasley gave up five runs (four earned runs) on six hits and one walk with one strikeout over 4⅔ innings.
Breaking big in the fifth
The Tigers chased Heasley in the fifth inning, which began with a eight-pitch walk to Barnhart. He moved up to second on a wild pitch. After Ryan Kreidler struck out, Akil Baddoo grounded to to first base for what could have been the second out.
A fielding error by Vinnie Pasquantino changed the entire inning.
As the ball shot past Pasquantino, Barnhart scored from second base to extend the Tigers' lead to 2-0. The next batter, Riley Greene, doubled to right field with a 111.3 mph exit velocity to score Baddoo from first for a 3-0 margin.
Then, Báez launched a no-doubt, two-run home run to left field, with the ball traveling 379 feet.
With two outs, Jonathan Schoop cranked his 23rd double to force a pitching change. Right-handed reliever Taylor Clarke replaced Heasley and struck out Victor Reyes to end the fifth inning.
Piling on late
Facing righty Brad Keller in the sixth, the Tigers quickly tacked on an insurance run for a 6-0 lead. Jeimer Candelario doubled — his 19th of the year — and scored on Tucker Barnhart's ensuing bloop single.
The first three batters in the seventh — Báez (single), Harold Castro (seven-pitch walk) and Schoop (10-pitch walk) —loaded the bases against righty Max Castillo before righty Luke Weaver took over for a matchup with Reyes.
A Reyes hit-by-pitch, Candelario sacrifice fly, Barnhart double and Kreidler single added four more runs to make it 10-0 after seven.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Tigers pound Royals, 10-3, for series sweep, sixth straight victory