The Detroit Tigers probably played themselves out of the pennant race in July and early August.
In the last four days, though, they’ve looked like the team that led the AL Central before the All-Star break.
Monday, Ryan Raburn had three RBIs and scored twice as the Tigers routed the Kansas City Royals 12-3. Jhonny Peralta and Brandon Inge also drove in three runs for Detroit, which is 4-0 since returning home and have outscored its opponents 31-6.
Detroit scored 12 times without a triple or a home run.
“Normally, when you get that many, you are going to have a two-run homer or a three-run homer or something in the mix,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “Tonight, it was just good at-bats and a lot of base hits. Everyone took a good approach throughout the lineup, and that’s good to see.”
Four of Detroit’s runs came immediately after the three intentional walks ordered by Royals manager Ned Yost in the fifth and sixth innings.
With the Tigers leading 3-2 in the fifth and a runner on third, Yost intentionally walked Miguel Cabrera, only to see Raburn hit a RBI double. Peralta was then put on, loading the bases, but Inge followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 5-2.
Johnny Damon’s RBI single made it a four-run game in the next inning, and Yost immediately walked Cabrera again, loading the bases. This time, Raburn hit a two-run single to set off a seven-run inning that gave Detroit a 12-2 advantage.
“Give Ryan Raburn credit, because he did exactly what he is supposed to do in those situations,” Yost said. “If you look across the major leagues, there are only about two hitters in Cabrera’s class, and I’m not going to let him beat us, but Raburn picked up the slack.”
The success continued a trend for the Tigers. In their last two games, their hitters have been issued five intentional walks — three to Cabrera. The next five hitters have combined to go 4-for-4 with a sacrifice fly and 8 RBIs.
“Our guys haven’t been trying to do too much in those situations,” Leyland said. “They’ve taken what is there and come up with big hits.”
Gregor Blanco provided the game’s final run with a ninth-inning sacrifice fly.
Jeremy Bonderman (7-9) got the win, ending a three-start losing streak by allowing two runs on eight hits in six innings.
“I didn’t try to do anything different,” he said. “My ball was really flat in the first couple innings, but I was able to make an adjustment and the guys made some big plays behind me.”
Bruce Chen (8-7) lasted just 4 1-3 innings for Kansas City, allowing five runs on five hits and five walks.
“I didn’t pitch very well, and it cost us the game,” he said. “I nibbled too much instead of attacking the strike zone.”
Kansas City took advantage of Bonderman’s customary first-inning struggles to go ahead on Billy Butler’s RBI single, but a running catch by centerfielder Austin Jackson helped limit the damage to one run.
“We let him off the hook in that inning — we absolutely did,” said Mitch Maier. “When you get things going early in the game, you need to take advantage. That was our best shot.”
Detroit then took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the inning on Cabrera’s RBI single and a bases-loaded walk of Peralta.
The Tigers expanded the lead to 3-1 on Peralta’s RBI double in the fourth, but Kansas City got a run back in the fifth when Blanco doubled and scored on a pair of groundouts.
NOTES: Damon confirmed before the game that he had been claimed on waivers by the Boston Red Sox. Because of his no-trade clause, Damon has until Wednesday to decide if he wants to accept a return to Boston — a decision he called one of the hardest of his career. After the game, he said he was leaning toward staying with Detroit, but wanted to talk to team president Dave Dombrowski before making any decisions. … Inge picked up the 999th hit of his career with a two-run double in the sixth inning. … Before the game, the Tigers designated the contract of reliever Enrique Gonzalez and recalled outfielder Casper Wells from Triple-A Toledo. Wells started in right field and went 0-for-2. … Jai Miller picked up his first major-league hit in the ninth inning, over two years after his first big-league game. He played one game for the Marlins in 2008, and didn’t get back to the majors until last week.