DETROIT – Delmon Young is finally doing what he was expected to this season.
And, so are the Detroit Tigers.
Young hit a two-run homer to give Detroit a much-needed, four-run cushion in the seventh inning and the Tigers held on to beat the Kansas City Royals 8-7 Saturday.
The designated hitter has a three-game homer streak for the first time in his career. He cleared the fence just six times in his first 74 games this season.
“He’s starting to do what I know he can do,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “He’s a run-producer and right now he’s producing.”
Detroit is, too, with a four-game winning streak that matches its longest of the year to give the team with high preseason expectations a winning record for the first time since May 10.
“It was just a matter of time,” Young said. “We’re too good of a team to struggle. We just need to win one more game to go into the break on a roll.”
Prince Fielder hit a two-run, game-tying homer in the first and the Tigers took an 8-4 lead on Young’s two-run shot off reliever Nate Adcock.
Detroit closer Jose Valverde started the ninth with a four-run lead and almost lost it.
Valverde walked Alex Gordon on four pitches to lead off the inning, gave up a double to Alcides Escobar and walked Eric Hosmer to load the bases. All-Star Billy Butler hit a two-run single to pull Kansas City within two runs.
Yuniesky Betancourt nearly hit a go-ahead, three-run homer on a fly center fielder Austin Jackson tracked down near the wall in left-center.
Jackson charged to make an underhanded catch on Mike Moustakas’ sacrifice fly for the second out and Jeff Francoeur struck out.
“I thought the worst-case scenario was that it gets up the gap, and it might get out,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “But Austin Jackson is just a phenomenal center fielder, and he ran it down. I didn’t think he was going to get Moose’s ball — I didn’t think it was hit hard enough — but he got that one as well.”
The Royals have lost seven of nine with one game left before hosting the All-Star game on Tuesday night.
Doug Fister (2-6) gave up four runs in six-plus innings and snapped a three-game losing streak. Fister, who has been on the disabled list twice this season, had given up 14 earned runs in his previous two starts.
“He’s getting closer and closer,” Leyland said. “He’s going to start the first game after the break.”
Fister, Darin Downs, Brayan Villarreal and Phil Coke combined to pitch a scoreless seventh. Joaquin Benoit struck out two in the eighth and Valverde pitched a shaky ninth inning.
Bruce Chen (7-8) gave up six runs for the second straight game and allowed nine hits over 3 1/3 innings.
“Bruce just never got locked in,” Yost said. “And while we’ve been really good with our long guys this year, Nate just hung one breaking ball. Other than that, he was fantastic.”
The Royals took a 2-0 lead in the first after Butler and Betancourt’s RBI singles, but couldn’t keep it. Jackson hit a leadoff single in the home half and scored on Fielder’s 14th homer, a 382-foot shot to right center with two outs to make it 2-all.
Gerald Laird had an RBI double and Jackson, who extended his career long hitting streak to 14 games, had an RBI single in a three-run second that put the Tigers up 5-2.
Miguel Cabrera’s sacrifice fly in the fourth gave Detroit a four-run lead.
Fister gave up two runs in the first, then pitched three scoreless innings before giving up Moustakas’ two-out homer in the fifth to let Kansas City pull within three runs. Betancourt’s sacrifice fly in the seventh off Villarreal cut Detroit’s lead to two.