DETROIT -- The Royals turned a critical double play in the eighth inning that helped them preserve their season-high seventh straight win, 3-1 over the Tigers on Tuesday night at Comerica Park.
With Justin Upton on third and Michael Mahtook on first and one out, Victor Martinez lined a hard shot into the right-field corner off Royals reliever Joakim Soria that Jorge Bonifacio snared. Upton tagged at third, but Mahtook strayed too far off first, and Bonifacio's throw back to first beat Mahtook, thanks to a great stretch from Eric Hosmer, for the double play.
"That's the No. 1 rule on the bases -- to pay attention where the outfielders are, especially in situations like that," Mahtook said. "I knew where the left and center fielder were. I just didn't check behind me and see where the right fielder was. There's no excuse, just a very, very bad mistake on my part."
Worse yet for the Tigers, Upton had not crossed home plate before the double play so no run was scored.
"I wasn't sure we'd get him at first," Hosmer said. "I just saw where the ball was coming. At that point, somebody's backing me up there so it's a do-or-die play, so I'm just staying on the bag and stretching.
"... That's how it's going for us right now. Things are going good. I remember in April when those balls weren't bouncing our way. But now they are. It's good."
Royals starter Danny Duffy watched the play in the clubhouse and said, "That play … we freaked out. Total freak-out."
• Duffy doesn't let up, stays focused with lead
Duffy pitched 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball, giving up six hits while walking one and striking out four.
The Royals remained 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Indians in the American League Central, as Cleveland beat the Angels in extra innings.
Tigers starter Michael Fulmer went eight solid innings, giving up eight hits and three runs while walking none and striking out six.
• Despite loss, Fulmer showcases top-notch stuff
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
First-pitch Whit: Royals leadoff hitter Whit Merrifield gave the Royals a 1-0 lead when he hit the first pitch of the game from Fulmer, a 95-mph fastball, into the left-field seats for his 11th homer. It was also the second time this season that Merrifield has hit the first pitch of the game for a home run -- he did so off Seattle's Felix Hernandez on July 4.
Another mad dash: Hosmer performed some daring baserunning in the Royals' fourth. After his single scored Bonifacio, Hosmer went first to third on Salvador Perez's single to left. Hosmer then scored on a rather short fly to left -- Upton made a good throw home, but catcher James McCann could not hold on to the throw as Hosmer slid in safely to make it 3-1 Royals.
"Just knowing Fulmer is on the mound, especially after Whit hit that first-pitch homer on him, you have to take chances," Hosmer said. "[Fulmer] seemed to get pretty fired up after [Merrifield's homer].
"At home, I didn't think I'd hit home plate yet. So I was trying to kick back and hit home. We just got tangled up, got stuck in there. Like I said, with Fulmer on the mound, you have to take do-or-die chances."
"He thought it was a double off the bat. I think the entire stadium thought it was a double off the bat, quite frankly. I think all you guys were fooled, too. That being said, you're not getting paid to play baseball." -- Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, on the double play
The Tigers challenged first-base umpire D.J. Reyburn's fourth-inning call that Lorenzo Cain beat out an infield single ahead of Nicholas Castellanos' throw. After a replay review, it was determined that Jose Cabrera caught the throw just ahead of Cain's foot hitting the bag.
Royals: Right-hander Ian Kennedy (3-6, 4.61 ERA) will pitch the final game of the series against the Tigers at 6:10 p.m. CT on Wednesday. Kennedy allowed six hits and five earned runs over four-plus innings last Friday vs. the White Sox.
Tigers:Anibal Sanchez (2-0, 5.95 ERA) starts at Comerica Park looking for his third win in his last four starts. He's 6-4 with a 2.66 ERA in his career against the Royals, trailing only Jonathan Lester for the lowest ERA vs. Kansas City among active pitchers with at least 10 starts. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.
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