DETROIT (AP) — Whit Merrifield homered on the first pitch of the game and the Kansas City Royals led the rest of the way, beating the Detroit Tigers 3-1 on Tuesday night for their seventh consecutive victory.
Danny Duffy (7-6) pitched into the seventh inning for the Royals, who added two runs in the fourth to keep the pressure on in the AL Central race. Kansas City came into the night 1 ½ games behind first-place Cleveland.
Merrifield homered to left-center off Michael Fulmer (10-8) to open the scoring. Fulmer struck out the next four hitters he faced, and the All-Star right-hander ended up allowing three runs and eight hits in eight sharp innings. He struck out six without a walk.
Duffy allowed a run and six hits in 6 1/3 innings. Three relievers finished, with Kelvin Herrera pitching a perfect ninth for his 21st save in 24 chances.
The Royals scored eight runs — five earned — off Fulmer in his previous start last week. He was much better this time around, but Kansas City put together a crucial rally in the fourth. Eric Hosmer made it 2-0 with an RBI single, and Mike Moustakas added a sacrifice fly.
Detroit’s Mikie Mahtook hit a triple in the bottom of the fourth and scored on James McCann’s single. The Tigers loaded the bases in the seventh, but Nicholas Castellanos — mired in a 0-for-18 slump — grounded into a forceout against reliever Peter Moylan, ending the threat.
Joakim Soria allowed singles to the first two Detroit hitters in the eighth, but the Tigers blundered their way out of that inning. With men on first and third and one out, Victor Martinez’s line drive to deep right was caught, and Mahtook was doubled off first.
Merrifield’s home run was his 11th of the season and the 17th for Kansas City during this winning streak. The Royals have gone deep 13 times in the last four games.
Royals: C Salvador Perez left the game in the fifth inning with right-side rib tightness.
Royals: RHP Ian Kennedy (3-6) takes the mound at Detroit on Wednesday night, when Kansas City tries for a three-game sweep.
Tigers: RHP Anibal Sanchez (2-0) starts for Detroit. He’s posted a 4.11 ERA in six starts since being recalled from Triple-A Toledo.