NOAH TRISTER,AP Baseball Writer
DETROIT (AP) — Prince Fielder homered for the first time in three weeks, hitting a two-run shot in the first inning to help the Detroit Tigers to a 4-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Thursday night.
Andy Dirks added two doubles and two singles for the AL Central-leading Tigers, who took the opener of this five-game series with third-place Kansas City. The Royals have lost three in a row after a 17-3 stretch that put them in contention for a postseason spot.
Detroit’s Anibal Sanchez (11-7) allowed a run and seven hits in 7 1-3 innings. Bruce Rondon finished the eighth, and Joaquin Benoit pitched a hitless ninth for his 16th save in 16 chances.
Jeremy Guthrie (12-9) allowed four runs and 13 hits in seven innings.
Kansas City now trails the Tigers by 8½ games. Second-place Cleveland is 6½ back.
Fielder went deep for the first time since July 24, belting a towering drive to right-center to give Detroit a 2-1 lead. The Tigers scored two more runs in the fifth on RBI singles by Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera.
Dirks, batting leadoff because Austin Jackson had the night off, scored twice. It was the second four-hit game of the season for Dirks, who is from Kansas and went to Wichita State.
The Tigers won despite an atrocious night on the bases. Dirks led off the Detroit third with a double, and then was caught in a rundown when Hunter grounded to the mound. After Dirks was tagged out, the Royals got a double play because Hunter had turned too far around first.
In the sixth, Brayan Pena took too much of a turn after hitting a single, and he too was caught off the bag.
Kansas City, meanwhile, stole three bases, but the Royals couldn’t break through against Sanchez after scoring a run in the first inning.
Alex Gordon’s RBI single made it 1-0, but Dirks singled to start the bottom of the first, and Fielder went deep for his 18th homer of the season.
The Royals had a man on second in the second, a man on third in the fourth and then a man on second again in the fifth. But they were 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position.
After a double by Dirks in the fifth, Detroit had men on second and third with one out. Hunter singled to make it 3-1, and Cabrera’s fly ball to center dropped in front of Jarrod Dyson for another run.
Cabrera, who has been bothered by hip and leg injuries lately, made a nice sliding catch in foul territory near third base on an eighth-inning popup by Gordon.
NOTES: Emilio Bonifacio, acquired by Kansas City on Wednesday in a trade with Toronto, went 1 for 4 with a stolen base. … A concession stand was closed after a small grease fire about three hours before the first pitch sent smoke high into the air behind the scoreboard in LF, but the situation was under control quickly and hardly anyone on the field at the time seemed to notice.
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