MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Royals make statement against Tigers

Royals make statement against Tigers

KANSAS CITY -- This time, it was about business, plain and simple, for the Kansas City Royals. There was no trashing talking, no bench clearing, no punches thrown.

Nope, the Royals welcomed the four-time defending American League Central champion Tigers into Kauffman Stadium on Thursday night and sent a message the old-fashioned way, by putting the finishing touches on the second-best April in franchise history with an 8-1 thumping. That's more runs than Kansas City scored in all but one of its 19 games against Detroit a year ago.

Yes, the Royals went head-to-head with a team that has made life miserable for them in their own park for the past decade (55-36), including winning eight of 10 games while outscoring Kansas City 63-27.

Not this year. Not for a Royals team that is intent on proving that, while it was only a Wild Card last postseason, it was no fluke that they won the AL pennant before losing to the Giants in the World Series.

"We know we are a good team," said manager Ned Yost. "We are going to win games a lot of ways. We also know there are a lot of good teams in this league."

Most importantly, however, Kansas City has been backing up its beliefs on the field.

The Royals open May with a 15-7 record, tied for the second-best mark in the big leagues. And they hold a half-game lead on the Tigers in the AL Central. It's the type of start that proves what the youthful Kansas City roster did last October, ending the franchise's 29-year postseason drought, was no fluke.

"It's always a huge boost of confidence for the players when the team gets off to a good start," said veteran right-hander Jeremy Guthrie. "We were able to accomplish a lot last year. And we are seeing a tremendous spurt of growth from the guys in the lineup. When you do that in a short period of time, it creates a lot of confidence."

It is not just a one-man show.

Yes, Alex Gordon, the veteran of the lineup and quite force in the clubhouse, and first baseman Eric Hosmer both drove in two runs on Thursday. They, however, are among six regulars hitting better than .300.

And lefty Danny Duffy, who has taken on a top-of-the-rotation role, responded with easily his best start of the season. He shut out Detroit on five hits in the first seven innings, finally being charged with a run in the eighth when Jose Iglesias led off with a triple and scored on Rajai Davis' ensuing single.

Working more than 6 1/3 innings for the first time this season, Duffy beat the Tigers for only the second time in eight career decisions by allowing seven hits and two walks in seven-plus innings. It was a far cry from his four previous starts this season -- a win, three no-decisions and a 4.15 ERA -- but it was a victory.

The Royals needed that. They are a feisty bunch. In the first three weeks of the season, they had bench-clearing incidents with the Angels and the A's and most recently a wild fracas with the White Sox. Kansas City has six players either serving a suspension or waiting for their time to come.

The Royals, however, aren't waiting to reaffirm what they showed during their run to the World Series last October.

"We accepted the challenge," said center fielder Lorenzo Cain. "We haven't backed down."

They haven't backed down from the challenge to fight. And they weren't overcome with intimidation about meeting up with Detroit.

"This was a great day," said Yost after Thursday's win. "But we know how tough they are. It was a great win, but we'll have our hands full tomorrow. It's going to be a boxing match the whole year."

More than likely, Yost is correct. Neither the division title nor the AL pennant is going to be handed out after the first month of the season. A statement, however, can be made, and Kansas City is making sure nobody can avoid hearing its demands for the respect an AL champion deserves.

The Royals, however, delivered the first blow in the head-to-head matchup with their primary AL Central opposition.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.