DETROIT -- A day after the Royals slowed the Tigers' playoff pursuit with a five-run rally in the ninth, they did their damage at the start, putting up a four-run opening inning Sunday and adding on from there before withstanding a furious Tigers comeback attempt for a 12-9 win at Comerica Park.
The Tigers' second straight loss dropped them 1 1/2 games behind the Orioles for the second American League Wild Card spot. It also dropped the Indians' magic number to one for clinching the AL Central as Cleveland comes to Detroit for a four-game series starting Monday.
"You don't want to lose late when you're fighting for a playoff spot," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "It feels like every loss at times is insurmountable. But the truth is, it's not insurmountable."
While the Tigers might have put Saturday's ninth behind them, the Royals' offense picked up where it left off. Kansas City's first four batters combined to hit for the cycle -- including a Salvador Perez two-run homer -- off Detroit starter Matt Boyd, who left after five batters and no outs. Back-to-back homers from Cheslor Cuthbert and Raul Mondesi built a touchdown-sized lead before Victor Martinez's grand slam closed the gap.
"I thought the fight in the offense was outstanding," Ausmus said. "Nobody wants to lose. You definitely don't want to lose this time of year, but the offense didn't give up."
Once Cameron Maybin and J.D. Martinez singled and scored in the eighth, the Tigers had the potential tying run at the plate for the third time in six innings. They did it again in the ninth off closer Wade Davis. Each time, the Royals answered, culminating in Davis' 26th save.
"That game really felt like it was a catfight, kicking and scratching, biting, clawing, eye-gouging," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "It was just one of those games."
The Royals' magic number to be eliminated from the postseason dropped to one when the Orioles beat the D-backs.
"I haven't played in the playoffs, but this was as close to a playoff atmosphere that I've played in," Royals rookie Whit Merrifield said. "It was pretty cool. They're fighting for a spot and you have to get all 27 outs against them."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Early cycle: The Royals started the game by hitting for the cycle with their first four hitters: A Billy Burns single, a Merrifield triple, a Kendrys Morales double and the Perez homer. The Perez homer was his 22nd, establishing a new career high. Merrifield also had a single and double. Starting the game with a cycle from the first four hitters only happened one other time in Royals history -- Sept. 30, 2006, when Joey Gathright doubled, Esteban German singled, Dave DeJesus tripled and Mike Sweeney homered.
"It's good," Perez said. "Another homer is good. We won, it's good. Career high is good. Everything is good."
V-Mart ignites rally: The Tigers began their attempt to rally from a 7-0 deficit in the third with back-to-back singles and a Miguel Cabrera walk to load the bases with one out for Victor Martinez. He hit an Edinson Volquez fastball out for a grand slam, his third home run this week and 27th of the season.
"The dugout got real loud, real quick," Ausmus said. More >
Back-to-back jacks: For the third time this season, the Royals hit back-to-back homers when Cuthbert connected on a two-run shot in the third and Mondesi followed with a blast. Mondesi hit his first Major League home run earlier this season at Comerica Park, his only other homer.
Another bases-loaded rally thwarted: No sooner had Victor Martinez slugged the Tigers back into the game, Detroit loaded the bases again, starting with a J.D. Martinez double. Back-to-back two-out walks brought up Andrew Romine as the potential go-ahead run and knocked out Volquez for Peter Moylan. But Romine's attempt to catch the Royals by surprise with a bunt ended up as a dribbler to the mound and an easy forceout at home plate to end the threat.
Ausmus said Romine was bunting on his own. He referred questions to Romine, who did not talk to reporters after the game.
"Did you see how we fought today? We know what to do. Obviously, today wasn't our day, but we all believe we can do it in here, and that's exactly what we plan on doing." -- Boyd, on final-week comeback
"Ultimately, 12 runs was too much to overcome. And really, 12 runs is generally too much to overcome." -- Ausmus
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
According to research on baseball-reference, Boyd became the fifth Major League starter since 1913 to give up the cycle without recording an out, and the first since Montreal's Tomo Ohka gave up six runs on five hits against the Cubs on April 17, 2002. The other three starters with such an outing on their resume are Boston's Reggie Cleveland in 1977, the Mets' Dennis Ribant on Sept. 23, 1966, and Cincinnati's Harry Perkowski on May 25, 1953. More >
The Royals had four home runs and four stolen bases for the first time in franchise history. The last team to do it was Texas in 2013.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Royals challenged an out call at first base when Burns appeared to have hit into an inning-ending double play in the fifth. The call was overturned in 25 seconds and Burns was ruled safe.
WHAT'S NEXT Royals: The Royals will have their final off-day of the season Monday, before opening the final six-game homestand against the Twins and Indians. Right-hander Ian Kennedy (11-10, 3.64 ERA) will start Tuesday at 6:15 p.m. CT against Minnesota.
Tigers: Detroit's playoff pursuit doesn't get any easier heading into the final week, as the first-place Indians come to town for a four-game series beginning Monday at 7:10 p.m. ET at Comerica Park. Buck Farmer (0-0, 4.07), who tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings in a spot start Wednesday at Minnesota before the game was rained out, gets another start the series opener opposite Cleveland ace Corey Kluber.