DETROIT -- Eric Hosmer hit an RBI single and a two-run homer as the Royals built an early lead before holding on late for a 7-6 win over the Tigers in a battle of rookie starters on Monday at Comerica Park.
The Royals' third win in four games moved them within 2 1/2 games of Minnesota for the second American League Wild Card spot, as the Twins fell to the Rays on Monday night. Kansas City has won its last six meetings with the Tigers, who have dropped their last five games overall.
The Royals pounced early on Artie Lewicki (0-1) in his Major League debut, using a two-run double from Melky Cabrera and a two-run homer from Hosmer to build a 5-0 lead after three innings. But Lewicki held the damage there, finishing with five runs in as many innings on 11 hits before Detroit rallied with a three-run fifth off Royals rookie Jakob Junis (7-2).
"I didn't feel like I was overwhelmed," Lewicki said. "I just felt like I was sometimes pressing, maybe trying to make a pitch too perfect, and ended up leaving it over the heart of the plate, and they made me pay for it."
Royals manager Ned Yost waited until the last possible moment to bring in Alexander because he had used him in four of the last six games, and the bullpen is a little thin. But Yost said he had to do what he had to do, and he had full confidence in turning to Alexander, who has three one-out saves this season.
"He's handled it in the most crucial situations his last three saves," Yost said. "You come in with the situations he's been in, and for him to have those situations, he can handle anything."
"We had a rough series against Cleveland," said Tigers right fielder Alex Presley, whose three-hit game followed a four-hit performance Saturday. "To finish strong today, even though we came up short, there's a little bit of spark going into tomorrow. I'm happy with how we battled."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED That's how you bring one back: One day after Mahtook tipped a ball over the left-field fence for a home run, Alex Gordon robbed him of a homer with a leaping catch at the same fence. Gordon reached up and over to corral Mahtook's two-out loft, stranding runners at the corners in the fourth inning.
Gordon said right off the bat he didn't think he was going to be able to catch the ball, considering the good swing Mahtook put on it.
"I just tried to get back to the fence right away and get in a good position, and luckily, it didn't get too far over," Gordon said. "I just timed my jump perfectly, and I was able to make a good catch." More >
Cain denies Iglesias: The Tigers had the potential tying run in scoring position after back-to-back sixth-inning walks off Peter Moylan and a Mahtook steal of second. Up came Jose Iglesias, whose RBI double fueled Detroit's fifth-inning rally, but Lorenzo Cain's charge in from center gave him the split-second he needed to slide in on Iglesias' sinking liner for a lead-preserving catch. Iglesias was two-thirds of the way down the line, and he flipped his helmet in frustration.
"That was a huge play, too. We made some great defensive plays today," Yost said. "[He was] closing ground extremely fast and made the play, because that would have tied the ballgame at that point." More >
"Save runs. That's what we try to do as defenders. It's pretty frustrating for an offense when you go out there and make plays like that. Give them credit. They fought back pretty hard, but luckily Scotty came in and saved the game again." -- Gordon, on his home run robbery and Cain's sliding play
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Hosmer has more home runs against the Tigers (20) than any other opponent, 11 of them at Comerica Park.
WHAT'S NEXT Royals:Jason Vargas (14-9, 3.87 ERA) looks to right the ship amid a rough second half of the season when he takes the mound Tuesday in Detroit. First pitch is scheduled for 6:10 p.m. CT. Vargas started the season 12-3 with a 2.62 ERA, earning himself a trip to the All-Star Game, but he has struggled since the break, going 2-6 with a 6.80 ERA.
Tigers:Anibal Sanchez (3-3, 6.95 ERA) returns from the disabled list to rejoin the injury-depleted Detroit rotation, making his first start since Aug. 16 for the second game of this series. First pitch at Comerica Park is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.