DETROIT -- Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas hit back-to-back home runs in the 12th inning, powering the Royals to their sixth straight win with a 5-3 victory over the Tigers on Monday night at Comerica Park.
The win kept the Royals 1 1/2 games behind the Indians in the American League Central. Kansas City moved alone into the second AL Wild Card spot, a game over the Rays.
The Royals had a 3-0 lead on Justin Verlander in potentially his final start as a Tiger, depending on whether the swirling trade rumors come to fruition in advance of the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Jason Hammel took the lead into the sixth before Jose Cabrera's RBI single and Alex Avila's two-run single -- off lefty reliever Scott Alexander -- brought the Tigers even.
A bloop single was all the Royals mustered from the sixth inning until Perez jumped on a changeup from Drew VerHagen (0-1), called up earlier in the day to provide an extra reliever from Triple-A Toledo.
"We always compete to win and we play hard," Perez said. "And the bullpen did a tremendous job and gave us the opportunity to win."
Added Moustakas: "Ever since the [AL] Wild Card game [in 2014], we've had the confidence to win close games and one-run games. Nobody tries to do too much."
Verlander, pitching in front of a handful of scouts, tossed seven innings of three-run ball, with two walks and nine strikeouts, tying his season high with 119 pitches in a no-decision.
Hammel lasted 5 2/3 innings, charged with three runs allowed, walking one, striking out four and allowing five hits, also in a no-decision.
"Overall, great game," Hammel said. "Probably best my sinker has ever been. Two-seamer was working in the zone, stayed aggressive. I was able to get deep."
Jake Junis (3-2) earned the win with a scoreless 11th ahead of Kelvin Herrera's 20th save.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Bonifacio hits the hanger: While Verlander topped out at 98 mph, he took a while, and he had spotty command of his secondary pitches. Jorge Bonifacio took a hanging breaking ball from Verlander in the sixth, but he didn't miss the next one, sending it out to left for a leadoff home run and a 3-0 Royals lead.
"Hanging slider," Verlander said. "Just a crappy pitch, caught the barrel."
Avila wins lefty-lefty matchup: Avila stepped to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the sixth in an 0-for-14 slump. Moreover, he was facing a lefty-lefty matchup with Alexander, who put him in an 0-2 hole. Alexander tried to finish him off with a sinker at the knees, but Avila reached for it and laced a line drive into left-center, scoring Alex Presley and Cabrera for a 3-3 game.
"He's got that power sinker, which is unusual for a left-hander," Avila said of Alexander, whom he faced last week in Kansas City. "Really, you just kind of have to see the ball up, because wherever you see the ball, it's probably going to end up about two feet below where you see it."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Verlander's nine strikeouts pushed his career total to 2,317, one ahead of Rube Waddell for 49th on the all-time Major League list. He's fourth among active pitchers behind Carsten Sabathia, Bartolo Colon and Felix Hernandez.
"I know I didn't acknowledge it when I was walking off the mound, probably because we're in the middle of a tie game. You don't know what's going to happen. Maybe I wish I could've gone back and said thank you, but who knows? Maybe there's a lot more of those to come. All I know is that I heard it, I felt it, I appreciated it, and I love these fans. And I'm glad that they acknowledged that." -- Verlander, on the standing ovation he received on his way off the mound at the end of the seventh inning
Royals: Left-hander Danny Duffy (6-6, 3.71 ERA) takes the mound for the Royals in the second game of the series at 6:10 p.m. CT on Tuesday. Duffy gave up four runs and nine hits over five-plus innings in the Royals' 16-4 win over Detroit last Thursday.
Tigers:Michael Fulmer (10-7, 3.35) gets a rematch with the Royals hoping to avenge the worst start of his career last time out. Kansas City took advantage of a three-error opening inning and pounded Fulmer for eight runs, five earned, on seven hits over 2 2/3 innings last Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. First pitch Tuesday at Comerica Park is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.
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