Chen tossed eight scoreless innings and limited the Tigers to just four hits in earning his 10th win. He scattered six baserunners and got into just two jams the entire night.
"Well, he was awful good," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He made it look pretty easy, to be honest with you. He was good. He cuts the ball and changes it up, backdoor breaking ball. He really knows what he's doing, obviously. He's not overpowering, as anybody can see. He pitched a great game."
Chen's dominance overshadowed the work of Sanchez, who, by all accounts, pitched his best game since joining the Tigers. The righty went seven innings, allowing just one run on seven hits.
"Today, I felt more comfortable," Sanchez said. "I worked with the pitching coach [Jeff] Jones. We tried to keep the ball down, make every pitch really aggressive, try to be ahead in the count. Today, there were a couple hitters where I was behind in the count, but I fought back. If the hitter stays in the box, I have a chance to get an out. They took a lot of swings, too. Today, I think was my first game where I got just one strikeout."
The Royals put some strong swings on the ball to start the fourth inning as they scored the game's only run. Billy Butler drove a fly ball to deep center, but Austin Jackson made a jumping catch up against the wall to rob him of a hit. Mike Moustakas then roped a double down the right-field line and moved to third on a groundout.
With two outs, the softest of hits, a blooper off the bat of Eric Hosmer, landed between the mound and second base and scored Moustakas to put the Royals in front.
"They got a jam shot tonight, the guy beat it out, obviously. That's all part of the game. I have no complaints about stuff like that. That's baseball," Leyland said. "We have no excuse. We didn't score runs. It's hard to complain about a play like that when you don't score runs."
Sanchez retired 10 of the final 11 batters he faced. The only scoring chance came in the bottom of the seventh, when he stranded a runner at second base.
"I thought he mixed well. I thought is velocity was good. He picked up a little extra when he needed it. As the game went on, he got the ball down better," Leyland said. "They hit a couple balls hard early, but then he settled in. He really showed me something his last inning out there. That was quite a few pitches for him. ... And he was up to the challenge. I felt he deserved to be out there. He rewarded the confidence I had in him by getting those guys out."
But, as good as Sanchez was, Chen was better.
"He hits his spots pretty well with all his pitches," Jackson said. "He changes his speeds on you when he goes in, out, up, down, and he keeps you off-balance. He could throw any pitch at any time, and he did that tonight."
The third time proved to be the charm for the Kansas City lefty, who had lost two prior meetings with the Tigers this season. Entering Wednesday night's game, he was 4-5 in his career against Detroit with a 6.10 ERA.
The Tigers rarely threatened, but they twice stranded a runner at third with fewer than two outs. Jackson was at third with one out in the first when Chen struck out Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.
"Those are two very good hitters," Chen said. "They can smell an RBI, and I just made good pitches. I think me and [catcher Brayan Pena] had a very good game plan against those two guys, and we executed it very well."
Chen faced runners at the corners with one out in the seventh, but he struck out Jhonny Peralta and got Jeff Baker to ground out to end the inning.
The veteran lefty also received a good deal of help from his defense, particularly from Moustakas, who engineered a pair of double plays and made a nice play on a pop-up to end the sixth inning.
But the biggest defensive play of the night came in the ninth when, for the second straight night, the Tigers mounted a threat against Royals closer Greg Holland. Andy Dirks singled up the middle to lead things off, and Cabrera lined a fly ball to center. But Jarrod Dyson made a great sliding catch to take a hit away from Cabrera and preserve the narrow one-run lead.
"That was a good catch, especially in that situation. If he misses that ball, it may change the game a little bit," Jackson said. "We didn't really have too much going on, and the plays that they made pretty much summed the game up. It could've been a little different if a couple of those balls would've got through, if Miggy's ball would've fell. They made good plays on them."