KANSAS CITY -- Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez continued his mastery of the Royals, and Miguel Cabrera delivered a two-run homer as Detroit salvaged a split in the four-game series with a 6-4 win on Sunday afternoon in front of 38,326 fans at Kauffman Stadium.
Sanchez, making his 200th career start, came into the game with a 5-2 mark against the Royals with a 1.07 ERA. He lasted 7 1/3 innings and gave up four hits and three runs.
"I know it was really important, especially because we split the series," said Sanchez, who improved to 6-2 career against the Royals since joining the Tigers in 2012.
"[Sanchez] hit his spots," Royals second baseman Christian Colon said. "He executed his pitches. But hey, they won two and we won two. They're a good team, we're a good team."
Former Royals closer Joakim Soria recorded the save, his 10th, with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Right-hander Jeremy Guthrie struggled for Kansas City. He gave up 11 hits and six runs, walked none and struck out one. Guthrie got stung by Alex Avila's two-run single in the fourth, and then Cabrera's two-run homer in the fifth.
"Today I thought he threw the ball OK," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "You got to kind of give credit to the opposition. That's a really good team. Some of those pitches, they just found a way to go down and get the ball to the outfield."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Scintillating Sanchez: The right-hander had never allowed multiple runs to the Royals in seven previous career meetings. He has, however, always allowed them a baserunner. That seemed in doubt on Sunday while Sanchez retired Kansas City's first 15 batters in order, but Paulo Orlando broke up any perfect-game hopes with a ground ball through the middle for a single leading off the sixth. Sanchez surrendered a two-run seventh inning and another run in the eighth, but he still cruised to his first win since April 8. More >
"He pitched good," Avila said. "He was just throwing the ball well, mixing all his pitches. He had very good command up until the seventh and eighth innings, and then he was struggling for it a little bit, but overall he pitched really well."
Avila awakened: Tigers manager Brad Ausmus liked Avila's matchup against Guthrie (8-for-29, three doubles, three homers previously) enough to start him on the day game after a night game, hoping to shake him out of his 1-for-11 slump on the road trip. Avila became the offensive catalyst, singling in Yoenis Cespedes for the opening run in the second inning before lining a two-run single to right in the fourth. Avila's three RBIs nearly matched his previous total for the season (four).
"I was able to get a few balls up and put some good swings on them," Avila said.
Breaking the shutout: The Royals, who always have been mystified by Sanchez, finally broke through against him in the seventh. With one out, Kendrys Morales walked and went to third on Eric Hosmer's double into the right-field corner. Erik Kratz, who replaced Salvador Perez after six innings, lofted a sacrifice fly. Then, Omar Infante hit a sharp single up the middle to score Hosmer.
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Sanchez is the seventh Venezuelan-born pitcher to start 200 games in the Majors, joining Freddy Garcia (357), Felix Hernandez (308), Carlos Zambrano (302), Johan Santana (284), Wilson Alvarez (263)and Kelvim Escobar (202).
"This could have been a real clunker of a game. Until the seventh inning, those fans had two things to cheer for: One, that fantastic double play, and two, the kid who steals the base [in a fan contest] and makes it down the line by like .1 seconds." -- Yost on the Royals coming back from a 6-0 deficit to make it a game
"We lose two tough games early in this series, we're in the middle of a long road trip, and we very easily could've gone through the motions a little bit. I think having the pitching performances we did the last three days helps out. It gets guys a little sense of urgency when it's easy to fall back." -- Avila on salvaging series split
WHAT'S NEXT Tigers: Detroit has Monday off before beginning a three-game series against the White Sox on Tuesday night in Chicago, where Jeff Samardzija awaits the Tigers in the series opener at 8:10 p.m. ET. Shane Greene, coming off 15 earned runs allowed over his last two starts, will start for Detroit.
Royals:The Royals will send out left-hander Jason Vargas to open a three-game set with the Indians at Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Vargas got the win last week against the Tribe, 6-2, as he went five innings and gave up both runs.