KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Torii Hunter insisted the first-place Tigers weren’t trying to send a message to the second-place Royals as the AL Central rivals began a four-game series leading into the All-Star break.
They did it anyway.
Everybody who stepped to the plate for Detroit had at least one hit and scored one run, and a season-best offensive onslaught spurred the Tigers to a 16-4 rout of Kansas City on Thursday night.
“It’s not a big series. It’s just another series. It was no statement,” said Hunter, who led off the fifth with a homer, added another hit later in the inning and finished with three RBIs.
“It’s a good win because it’s in the division, but we weren’t trying to send a statement.”
Nevertheless, the Tigers extended their lead to 5 1/2 games over the Royals by capturing their third straight victory and fourth in a row in Kansas City — winning those four games by a 42-12 margin. The latest offensive binge came just two days after Detroit blitzed the Dodgers 14-5.
Detroit manager Brad Ausmus downplayed the outburst.
“When you get as many hits and runs like we did today,” Ausmus said, “you’re usually finding holes.”
Drew Smyly (5-8) was the beneficiary, allowing four runs on eight hits and a walk in 6 2-3 innings for Detroit. He had lost six of his previous eight outings.
Jeremy Guthrie (5-8) gave up a career-worst eight earned runs on eight hits, three walks and two hit batters. He was mercifully pulled with no outs in the fifth, which means the Royals’ veteran has allowed 16 earned runs in eight-plus innings covering his last two starts.
“We didn’t pitch good tonight. That’s the bottom line. That’s why they scored 16 runs,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “We didn’t pitch good and we fell out of the game early.”
The Tigers stunned the Royals with three runs in the first, added three in the fourth and put up a season-best eight in the fifth. They ended up with 19 hits for the game.
Miguel Cabrera and J.D. Martinez joined Hunter in driving in three runs apiece, while Ian Kinsler, Nick Castellanos and Eugenio Suarez each drove in two.
“We didn’t come here thinking we have to hold them off,” Castellanos said. “We’re confident in where we’re going to be at the end of September.”
Billy Butler homered in the fourth for KC. Eric Hosmer hit a two-run shot in the seventh.
“‘‘Losing is never easy. Anytime, it’s not fun,” Butler said. “Obviously that game took a long time. It felt like they were hitting the whole time.”
The tone of the game was set in the first inning, when four of the first five Tigers reached base. A series of singles, groundouts and sacrifice flies resulted in a 3-0 lead.
“It gives you a little less pep for the game when it starts out like that,” Guthrie said.
Kansas City scratched out a run in the second, only for Detroit to score three more in the fourth. Cabrera delivered the big blow with a two-out, two-run double.
The floodgates finally opened in the fifth, when Hunter began a parade of 12 batters to the plate with his 12th homer of the season. Castellanos also had two hits in the inning, and everybody in the lineup besides Austin Jackson and Don Kelly reached base before the carnage was over.
“It’s fun,” Hunter said. “You get everybody involved, this is what it can look like.”
Guthrie was pulled after two batters, and recently signed Royals reliever Scott Downs gave up two more runs while retiring one batter. Louis Coleman, recalled from Triple-A Omaha, gave up four more runs to cap the worst pitching performance by the Royals this season.
Kansas City had previously allowed 12 runs in a loss to Toronto on May 31.
“We’ll just throw it away and move on,” Yost said. “We’ll just let it go.":
NOTES: Coleman took the roster place of LHP Jason Vargas (appendectomy), who was placed on the DL retroactive to Wednesday. ... Royals LF Alex Gordon (right wrist sprain) will miss the All-Star game. He was replaced on the AL roster by Angels SS Erick Aybar. ... Tigers DH Victor Martinez (back strain) remained out of the lineup. Ausmus declined to say whether he might play in the series. ... Detroit RHP Anibal Sanchez faces Kansas City LHP Danny Duffy on Friday night.