DETROIT (AP) — Omar Infante showed the Detroit Tigers what they’re missing.
Infante hit a three-run homer in the sixth inning and had an RBI single in a four-run fifth against former teammate Justin Verlander, helping the Kansas City Royals beat the Tigers 11-8 Monday night.
Infante became expendable in Detroit last November when the franchise traded first baseman Prince Fielder to Texas for second baseman Ian Kinsler. The next month, Infante signed a $30.25 million, four-year contract with the Royals, and their manager is glad he did.
“I didn’t really think much about Omar last year with the lineup that they had,” Royals skipper Ned Yost acknowledged. “I would try to pitch around this guy and pitch around this guy to get to Omar, and Omar constantly just beat our brains in offensively. At about the midway point, I started realizing how really good he was.”
With 90-plus games left this season, the Tigers are finding out how vulnerable they are and how good Kansas City is in the tightly contested AL Central.
The Royals have won a season-high eight straight to pull within a half-game of Detroit atop the division. Kansas City has won 11 of 13 since trailing the Tigers by 6 1/2 games at the start of the month.
“We got on a nice little run here and we’ve made up some ground,” Yost said.
Detroit scored six runs in the ninth inning and pulled within three on J.D. Martinez’s two-out grand slam off Donnie Joseph. Michael Mariot struck out Austin Jackson looking for the final out.
Jason Vargas (7-2) gave up two runs on seven hits and two walks to win his third straight.
Verlander (6-7) allowed seven earned runs in consecutive starts for the first time in his career, giving up a season-high 12 hits and striking out two over six innings. He got off to a good start, retiring the Royals in order on 10 pitches in the first inning, and pitched four scoreless innings before getting roughed up.
The Royals took a 4-2 lead in the fifth inning when Billy Butler followed Infante’s RBI single with a three-run double off Verlander.
“Our confidence level is as high as it can get,” Butler said. “I don’t think it is as much him as it is we’re going really good right now.”
Infante cleared the left-field fences with his third homer this year with two on to make it 7-2 in the sixth, leading fans to boo Verlander, who is in the second season of his seven-year, $180 million deal.
“I don’t blame the fans for booing,” Verlander said. “They are frustrated with me, just like I’m frustrated with myself. I would have probably booed myself tonight. They’ve cheered me a lot of times, and they will cheer me again.”
The jeers kept coming in the next inning when Kansas City scored four runs — one earned — on four hits and two errors off Evan Reed, who failed to retire any Royals as their lead grew to 11-2. The Royals finished with a season high in runs and hits (17) on a steamy night in the Motor City.
Detroit hurt its chances of winning the opener of the four-game series early in the game.
Both teams lost a player to cramps.
Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter left the game in the fourth with a cramp in his right hamstring.
“It’s not a strain,” Detroit manager Brad Ausmus insisted.
Royals catcher Salvador Perez was replaced in the seventh because of cramps in both calves.
“He’s fine,” Yost said. “They made him drink a bunch of fluids and gave him an IV.”
NOTES: Kansas City RHP Yordano Ventura (4-5) will start against Detroit RHP Max Scherzer (8-2) on Tuesday night, when the Royals will have a chance to move into first place and push the Tigers to second in the division for the first time this season. ... Kansas City’s winning streak is the longest active streak in the majors and its best since winning nine in a row from July 22 to Aug. 1 last year.