LARRY LAGE, AP Sports Writer
DETROIT (AP) — Omar Infante hit a three-run homer in the sixth inning and had an RBI single in a four-run fifth against former teammate Justin Verlander, helping the Kansas City Royals beat the Detroit Tigers 11-8 Monday night.
Kansas City has won a season-high eight straight to pull within a half-game of the AL Central-leading Tigers.
Detroit scored six runs in the ninth inning and pulled within three on J.D. Martinez’s two-out grand slam off Donnie Joseph.
Michael Mariot struck out Austin Jackson looking for the final out.
Jason Vargas (7-2) gave up two runs on seven hits and two walks to win his third straight.
Verlander (6-7) allowed seven earned runs in consecutive starts for the first time in his career, giving up a season-high 12 hits and striking out two over six innings. The 2011 AL Cy Young Award winner, who was an All-Star last year for the sixth time, has struggled this season. He has lost three straight, and five of his last seven starts.
Verlander got off to a good start, retiring the Royals in order on 10 pitches in the first inning, and pitched four scoreless innings before getting roughed up.
The Royals took a 4-2 lead in the fifth inning when Billy Butler followed Infante’s RBI single with a three-run double.
Infante cleared the left-field fences with his third homer this year with two on to make it 7-2 in the sixth, leading fans to boo the pitcher in the second season of his seven-year, $180 million deal.
The jeers kept coming in the next inning when Kansas City scored four runs — one earned — on four hits and two errors off Evan Reed, who failed to retire any Royals as their lead grew to 11-2.
Detroit hurt its chances of winning the opener of the four-game series before the Royals built a huge lead.
Miguel Cabrera hit into an inning-ending double play in the third with runners on first and third, ending the Tigers’ chances of adding to their 1-0 lead. Detroit had three singles the next inning, but scored only one run in part because pinch-runner J.D. Martinez made a baserunning error by running too far past second base and getting tagged out.
Both teams lost a player to cramps.
Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter left the game in the fourth with a cramp in his right hamstring. Royals catcher Salvador Perez was replaced in the seventh because of cramps in both calves.
Detroit gave the fans that stuck around something to cheer about in the ninth inning, with six runs and five hits, but the team with a major league-leading 20 comebacks could not pull off a remarkable rally. Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez hit a hard chopper during the final inning that took a big bounce and went off the head of Mike Moustakas, but the third baseman shook it off and stayed in the game.
NOTES: Kansas City RHP Yordano Ventura (4-5) will start against Detroit RHP Max Scherzer (8-2) on Tuesday night when the Royals will have a chance to move into first place and push the Tigers to second in the division for the first time this season. … Infante became expendable in Detroit last November when the franchise traded first baseman Prince Fielder to Texas for second baseman Ian Kinsler. The next month, Infante signed a $30.25 million, four-year contract with the Royals. … Kansas City’s winning streak is the longest active streak in the majors and its best since winning nine in a row from July 22 to Aug. 1 last year. … The Tigers paid tribute to Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, who died Monday of cancer at 54, by putting “TG 5.5” in light-colored dirt in the hole he often hit through between third basemen and shortstops. “He was just a good, regular guy,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who was a teammate of Gwynn’s in San Diego. “He’d talk to anybody like they were his next door neighbor.”
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