KANSAS CITY, Mo.(AP) — The Detroit Tigers insisted that they weren’t trying to make a statement.
They accomplished it anyway.
Ian Kinsler hit a two-run homer, everyone in the Detroit starting lineup had a hit by the fourth inning and the Tigers pounded Jason Vargas and the second-place Kansas City Royals 10-1 on Friday night to add another game to their AL Central lead.
The Tigers (85-68), who now lead the division by 1 1/2 games, have forged their advantage by dominating head-to-head matchups. They are 12-5 against the Royals his season.
“We just went out there and did what we’re capable of doing,” Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter said. “But there are no statements. Our intent is just to play the game.”
Justin Verlander (14-12) had all the support he needed by the end of the first inning, when the Tigers had shelled Vargas (11-10) for three runs on five hits. Detroit tacked on a run in the second, another in the fourth and then broke things open with a five-run fifth.
Lost amid the offensive onslaught was a fine performance by Verlander, who had struggled his last three times out. The 2011 Cy Young winner allowed one run on seven hits in 7 1/3 innings.
“He certainly seemed like he was up for this game,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “It was there up there with one of the best games he’s had all season.”
Vargas allowed five runs on nine hits in 3 1-3, his shortest outing since April 16, 2013.
“It’s my responsibility to set the tone,” he said. “They were hitting good pitches and I was leaving pitches up in the zone. I just wasn’t able to put us in the right direction.”
Now, it’s up to the Royals to change course in a hurry.
“There’s no carry-over,” manager Ned Yost said. “They whipped us, they beat us, they spanked us, whatever you want to say. We’ll show up again tomorrow and be ready to play.”
Kansas City came into the weekend off a momentum-building win over the White Sox, and a day off Thursday allowed anticipation of the series to swell. Fans snatched up every last ticket, pounding the plastic “thundersticks” given away at the turnstiles as the Royals opened arguably their most important set of games since the 1985 World Series.
It took about 15 minutes for silence to grip the ballpark.
Kinsler led off the game with a single, and after Hunter flied out, the Tigers rapped out three straight hits to take the lead. Hunter got his hit the next inning, an RBI double, and James McCann became the last Detroit player in the starting lineup with a hit in the fourth.
His single and ensuing stolen base were the first of McCann’s career.
Royals relievers Casey Coleman and Louis Coleman could do little to stop the bleeding as the Tigers pounded out 15 hits by the fifth inning. And those fans that had packed “the K” to see the first act of a pennant-chase drama? Many were already streaming for the exits.
Kinsler paced the Tigers’ offense with three RBIs, and Eugenio Suarez added a pair. Everyone in the starting lineup but McCann, J.D. Martinez and Rajai Davis drove in a run.
That included 35-year-old Victor Martinez, whose run-scoring single in the first inning gave him 100 RBIs to go with 31 home runs. The only players older than him to become first-time members of the 30-100 club have been Carlton Fisk (1985) and Edgar Martinez (2000).
“It’s nice,” Martinez said, “but at the same time, I don’t look at those numbers. We’re in the middle of a race. That’s all that matters.”