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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Anibal Sanchez could have thrown his fastball into a knothole on Sunday.
The Kansas City Royals are getting used to it, too.
The Tigers' starter once again breezed through the American League champions Sunday, carrying a perfect game into the sixth inning. Miguel Cabrera hit a two-run homer, Alex Avila also drove in three runs and the Tigers went on to a 6-4 victory for a split of the four-game series.
"I guess I just know them really well," Sanchez said when asked why he continually confounds the Royals. "We'll see. I face them again in my next start."
Good news for the Tigers. Not so much for the Royals.
Detroit dropped the first two games of the series before squeaking out a 2-1 victory behind David Price's masterpiece Saturday night. Sanchez (2-3) then held the Royals without a baserunner until Paulo Orlando dribbled a single up the middle leading off the sixth inning.
Sanchez wound up allowing three runs and four hits over 7 1-3 innings.
"When his stuff is on," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus aid, "he can be electric."
Kansas City nearly bailed out Jeremy Guthrie (1-2) by scoring two runs in the seventh and two more in the eighth. But Tom Gorzelanny struck out Eric Hosmer to leave a runner aboard, and Joakim Soria shut down his former team in the ninth for his 10th save.
"I thought we could have won three out of the four, quite honestly," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I felt we had a great opportunity to win that game last night.
Guthrie didn't give them much of a chance on Sunday. After giving up an RBI single to Avila in the second inning and loading the bases for him in the fourth, Avila hit a two-run single that ultimately cleared the bases when Orlando fumbled the ball.
Ian Kinsler added a single in the fifth before Cabrera hit his sixth homer this year.
Guthrie ended up allowing all six runs and 11 hits in six innings. The poor outing came after a dazzling start to the series by Kansas City pitchers, who had allowed Detroit's potent offense to score just four runs total in the first three games.
"It was kind of a strange day," Yost said. "He commanded the ball. His strike to ball ratio was good. He was changing speeds well. The one hit that hurt was the two-run homer by Cabrera."
Sanchez has struggled early this season — the Tigers had lost his last four starts — but he's owned the Royals his entire career. He had been 5-2 with a 1.07 ERA in his previous seven starts against the Tigers' biggest rival for division supremacy.
With a crowd of 38,326 packed inside Kauffman Stadium, the third straight sellout, the right-hander calmly mowed through the Royals lineup for most of the afternoon.
Kansas City did not have its second baserunner until Sanchez walked Kendrys Morales with one out in the seventh. The Royals went on to score on Erik Kratz's sacrifice fly and Omar Infante's single, then added runs in the eighth on a single by Morales and Mike Moustakas's groundout.
"We know the Royals pretty well. They know us pretty well," Ausmus said, when asked to sum up the first series of the season between AL Central contenders. "I don't think there was any eureka moments. Just two pretty good teams."
The Royals welcomed 143,609 fans, the seventh-best mark for a four-game series at Kauffman Stadium. It was a record for a four-game set since the 2009 renovation decreased capacity.
Tigers: SS Jose Iglesias left in the sixth inning with tightness in his left groin, and is listed as day to day. Andrew Romine replaced him in the lineup.
Royals: All-Star closer Greg Holland (strained pectoral muscle) is expected to come off the disabled list Tuesday. He reported no problems after a simulated game Saturday.
Tigers: RHP Shane Greene will take the mound after a day off to open a three-game set against the White Sox. The series beginning Tuesday night wraps up a 10-game trip.
Royals: LHP Jason Vargas tries to solve his early season struggles in the opener of a three-game series against Cleveland on Tuesday night. Kansas City is off Monday.