DETROIT -- The Tigers took a series from the American League Central-rival Royals in an unlikely battle of the bullpens. Ian Kinsler's two-run homer in the ninth off Ryan Madson gave Detroit an 8-6 walk-off win in the rubber game on Thursday afternoon at Comerica Park.
"I don't know if that's a recipe for winning when you match against Kansas City's bullpen," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "But today we were able to do it."
It was a fitting end to a game that swung on rallies. The Royals churned out three second-inning runs off starter Anibal Sanchez before Victor Martinez's three-run homer powered a four-run third to put the Tigers in front, 4-3. A 6-3 lead vanished in the seventh on a Drew Butera solo homer and Kendrys Morales' two-run double.
Madson (1-2) entered after Wade Davis stranded the potential go-ahead run on third base in the eighth inning. A Jose Iglesias single brought up Kinsler, who jumped a fastball and sent it deep to left field for his second career walk-off homer.
The Tigers earned their first series victory since they took two of three in Seattle July 6-8, the week before the All-Star break. They won back-to-back games against one opponent for the first time since taking two in a throw against Toronto July 3-4 in Detroit.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED V-Mash: Martinez hadn't homered since July 17 and owned just two extra-base hits since the All-Star break, along with a seemingly slower swing, when he stepped to the plate on Thursday against Royals starter Yordano Ventura. But two thwarted double plays allowed Martinez to appear twice with runners on, and he responded with quick force, turning on a 97-mph fastball for a go-ahead three-run homer in the third before sending a hanging changeup to right field for a two-run homer in the fifth. It marked his first multi-homer game since 2010, the year before he signed with the Tigers. More >
"The first one was a tough one," Royals manager Ned Yost said of the two missed double plays. "The second one, we should turn that double play. Ended up costing us two runs."
Patience pays: The Royals took advantage of Sanchez's command issues in the second inning and jumped out to a 3-0 lead. After singles by Eric Hosmer and Morales to lead off the frame, Mike Moustakas and Alex Rios worked walks, plating a run. Former Tiger Omar Infante followed with a two-run single up the middle. Sanchez settled down, though, and retired the next 13 batters he faced.
"Second inning was the only inning I'm really disappointed in, especially because I gave [up] a walk with the bases loaded," Sanchez said. "It's something I don't like. I know it's a part of the game. I know it's a situation, but right there, that's put in my mind a little bit."
Moose crossing: The Royals had a chance to pull ahead in the ninth, loading the bases with two out against new Tigers closer Alex Wilson. After giving up back-to-back walks to Hosmer and Morales, the latter after a 1-2 count, Wilson regrouped to get swings from Moustakas on three fastballs. He fouled off the first-pitch and a 2-1 offering before popping out in front of home plate.
"They made me work for it," Wilson said.
Yordano's A-Ventura: Kansas City's comeback meant Ventura was spared the loss, but the righty still allowed six runs over five innings, raising his ERA to 5.29. Most of the damage came from Martinez's two home runs, but Ventura also issued three walks and allowed six other hits. His only clean inning was a 14-pitch fourth. More >
"He just started fighting his command in the third inning," Yost said. "He was really good the first two innings. Stuff was good. He came out and walked the first two hitters in the third inning and kinda battled command."
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Ventura has a 6.75 ERA in five games since coming off the disabled list in early July.
Butera's home run leading off the seventh was the career-high 25th off Sanchez this season, second-most among AL pitchers. Minnesota's Phil Hughes sits on top with 27.
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: Right-hander Edinson Volquez starts against the White Sox at 7:10 p.m. CT on Friday as the Royals open a 10-game homestand at Kauffman Stadium. Kansas City is 7-3 against Chicago this season.
Tigers: Left-hander Daniel Norris will make his home debut on Friday at 7:08 p.m. ET in the opener of a three-game set against the Red Sox.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. Alejandro Zúñiga is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.