KANSAS CITY -- The Tigers ended a grueling 11-game, 10-day road trip on a high note thanks to an early offensive outburst and some stingy relief. J.D. Martinez's two-run double fueled a four-run third inning, building a lead that Warwick Saupold and three other relievers held with 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball for a 6-5 win over the Royals on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Neither starter, Matthew Boyd or Ian Kennedy, survived to see the end of the fourth inning. Four first-inning hits, including a Cheslor Cuthbert two-run single, built a 3-0 Royals lead before three Ian Kennedy walks and back-to-back doubles from Martinez and Justin Upton led Detroit back. But Alex Avila's fourth-inning solo homer off Seth Maness ended up being the difference.
"Winning today had nothing to do really with earlier in the trip. It was a matter of getting back to winning series," Avila said. "But it always feels good getting on a plane after a win."
Kennedy (0-5) gave up five runs on four hits in three innings. Boyd lasted just 3 2/3 innings, surrendering four runs on seven hits in his fourth consecutive subpar start, but Saupold (1-0) delivered three scoreless innings of relief on one hit with eight consecutive groundouts for his second career Major League victory. Justin Wilson stranded the potential tying run in the ninth for his fifth save.
"[Kennedy] just hit a wall, really started laboring," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He had two pretty quick outs. He ended up getting a groundout, a walk and then a strikeout. You think, 'OK, he's going to cruise through the third.' Then a walk and a walk and then the double. He just really started to labor there trying to get that third out in the third inning."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Double-double: After Kennedy walked three Tigers to load the bases in the third inning, Tigers right fielder J.D. Martinez hit a double to right field that drove in two runs and tied the game. The hit was measured at 110.9 mph, per Statcast™. On the next pitch, Tigers left fielder Upton hit a double to left-center, scoring Victor and J.D. Martinez as the Tigers took a 5-3 lead.
"Wish I could blame my [hamstring] but it felt pretty good," said Kennedy, who made his third start since coming off the disabled list with a hamstring strain. "It's frustrating. I was just missing a ball off to each side. I beat myself."
Comeback snubbed: The Royals cut the Tigers' lead to 6-5 in the eighth inning when right fielder Jorge Bonifacio scored from third base on a wild pitch. But with the potential tying run on second and two out, Tigers reliever Alex Wilson induced Cuthbert to ground out to first baseman Miguel Cabrera.
"Once you kind of get to slow the game down a little bit, you start to control. You're not trying to do too much. I think the previous outings, I was trying to do a little bit much. I just worked on my breathing between innings and then while I was out there, too. Just slowed the game and I felt under control." -- Saupold, on his outing
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield singled in the eighth inning, extending his career-high hitting streak to 16 games. That's the longest streak by a Royal this season and the longest active hitting streak in the Major Leagues.
• Nicholas Castellanos' fifth-inning double was the 100th of his career. At 25 years, 88 days, he became the ninth-youngest player to reach 100 doubles with the Tigers. The eight players ahead of him include Ty Cobb (22-228), Al Kaline (22-230), Hank Greenberg (24-117), Travis Fryman (24-125), Harvey Kuenn (24-288), Barney McCosky (25-20), Harry Heilmann (25-41) and Alan Trammell (25-78).
HOZ TO 1,000
Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer singled to left in the third inning -- that was hit No. 1,000 for the 27-year-old. He became the 11th player in franchise history to reach 1,000.
WHAT'S NEXT Tigers: With the three-city road trip complete, the Tigers get a well-deserved off-day Thursday before opening a six-game homestand Friday at Comerica Park with a 7:10 p.m. ET game against the White Sox. Michael Fulmer (5-3, 2.65), who has lost 1-0 and 3-0 decisions his last two starts, will try to continue his stingy pitching and pull for run support when he faces the Sox for the second time in a week.
Royals: After an off-day Thursday, the Royals open a three-game set starting Friday at 7:15 p.m. CT with the Indians at Kauffman Stadium. Left-hander Jason Vargas (6-3, 2.39 ERA) takes the mound for the Royals. He gave up two runs over 5 2/3 innings last Saturday against the Tribe in a 5-2 win.