NOAH TRISTER,AP Baseball Writer
DETROIT (AP) — Jeremy Guthrie is well aware that the margin for error is thin against the Detroit Tigers.
Guthrie allowed a two-run homer by Prince Fielder in the first inning, and the Kansas City Royals went on to lose the opener of this key five-game series against the Tigers 4-1 on Thursday night.
The Royals have now lost three straight after a 17-3 stretch that put them in contention for a postseason spot.
“They were tough all the way through the lineup — a lot of base hits, a lot of baserunners,” Guthrie said. “Aside from the home run pitch, we had a chance.”
Andy Dirks added two doubles and two singles for the AL Central-leading Tigers. Anibal Sanchez (11-7) allowed a run and seven hits in 7 1-3 innings. Bruce Rondon finished the eighth, and Joaquin Benoit pitched a hitless ninth for his 16th save in 16 chances.
Guthrie (12-9) allowed four runs and 13 hits in seven innings.
Kansas City now trails the Tigers by 8½ games and is 5½ games behind Oakland in the race for a wild card.
Fielder went deep for the first time since July 24, belting a towering drive to right-center to give Detroit a 2-1 lead. The Tigers scored two more runs in the fifth on RBI singles by Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera.
“Prince produces runs. I don’t care how he does it,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “Tonight happened to be by way of the home run, but he’s a run producer, always has been. It’s in the book and it’ll be in the book at the end of this year.”
Dirks, batting leadoff because Austin Jackson had the night off, scored twice. It was the second four-hit game of the season for Dirks, who is from Kansas and went to Wichita State.
The Tigers won despite an atrocious night on the bases. Dirks led off the Detroit third with a double but was caught in a rundown when Hunter grounded to the mound. After Dirks was tagged out, the Royals got a double play because Hunter had turned too far around first.
In the sixth, Brayan Pena took too much of a turn after hitting a single, and he too was caught off the bag.
Kansas City, meanwhile, stole three bases, but the Royals couldn’t break through against Sanchez after scoring a run in the first inning.
“We had a good scouting report today,” Kansas City’s Alex Gordon said. “When you’re not hitting doubles and home runs, you’ve got to make something happen.”
Gordon’s RBI single made it 1-0, but Dirks singled to start the bottom of the first, and Fielder went deep for his 18th homer of the season.
“It was a slider,” Guthrie said. “It just caught a lot of the plate.”
The Royals had runners in scoring position in the second, fourth and fifth innings but finished 1 for 9 in those situations.
After a double by Dirks in the fifth, Detroit had men on second and third with one out. Hunter singled to make it 3-1, and Cabrera’s fly ball to center dropped in front of Jarrod Dyson for another run.
Cabrera, who has been bothered by hip and leg injuries lately, made a nice sliding catch in foul territory near third base on an eighth-inning popup by Gordon.
NOTES: Emilio Bonifacio, acquired by Kansas City on Wednesday in a trade with Toronto, went 1 for 4 with a stolen base. … A concession stand was closed after a small grease fire about three hours before the first pitch sent smoke high into the air behind the scoreboard in LF, but the situation was under control quickly and hardly anyone on the field at the time seemed to notice. … Detroit and Kansas City play a doubleheader Friday. The Tigers send RHP Justin Verlander (12-8) to the mound in the opener against Royals LHP Danny Duffy (0-0). Detroit LHP Jose Alvarez (1-2) faces Kansas City RHP James Shields (7-8) in the nightcap.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.