Tigers, Royals resume respectful rivalry with split
The Kansas City Royals have rubbed some American League teams the wrong way this season. When they face the Detroit Tigers, however, the atmosphere is one of respect.
''I think our guys actually like a lot of the guys over there, and vice versa,'' Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. ''I think you could pluck guys from our clubhouse and put them over there and they'd fit in just fine.''
The Tigers and Royals split four games in the first series of the year between the defending AL Central champions and the 2014 American League pennant winners. Kansas City has been through its share of heated exchanges this year, most notably with Oakland and the Chicago White Sox, but the matchup with the Tigers was clean and compelling.
Playing at home, Kansas City took the first two games. The highlight may have been Kelvin Herrera's bases-loaded strikeout of Miguel Cabrera in the eighth inning Friday night. The victories were a good sign for the Royals, who lost the division by one game to Detroit last year after going just 6-13 against the Tigers.
Detroit bounced back with wins Saturday and Sunday, with Cabrera homering in the finale. The split left the Tigers a half-game ahead of Kansas City atop the division.
The teams will play a three-game series at Detroit starting Friday - then they won't meet again until August.
Here are a few more developments from around baseball last week:
ON A ROLL
The largest division lead in the major leagues belongs to ... the Houston Astros, who have won 10 in a row to open a seven-game margin over the rest of the AL West. It's early, but this state of affairs is a bit of a shocker. Houston is only one season removed from a three-year streak of at least 106 losses - and now the Astros have opened up some daylight in a division that was supposed to be pretty tough.
Jake Marisnick is hitting .382, Jose Altuve is at .361 and Dallas Keuchel has a 0.73 ERA. And the Astros can withstand some regression among those three if Evan Gattis starts providing more power. He homered twice Sunday.
ON A ROLL, PART II
Miami second baseman Dee Gordon was already off to a good start, but over his last eight games, he is a sensational 20 for 31, raising his batting average to .440.
As tempting as it might be to get excited about a possible run at .400, the reality is that Gordon still doesn't walk enough to have much of a shot. When Ted Williams accomplished the feat in 1941, he had only 456 official at-bats because of his high number of walks. Since then, only six players have hit at least .375, and four of them had fewer than 450 at-bats. Unless Gordon starts taking more free passes, he'll have a hard time joining that rarified air.
Still, there are some encouraging signs for Gordon. His strikeout rate is the lowest it has been since 2011, when he hit .304 in his debut season for the Los Angeles Dodgers. When the speedy Gordon puts the ball in play, good things can happen. That's certainly been the case for the last 10 days or so.
Some sell-high candidates after the first month of the season: DJ LeMahieu of Colorado, Juan Lagares of the New York Mets, Nick Martinez of Texas and Mike Pelfrey of Minnesota.
LINE OF THE WEEK
Dan Uggla, Nationals, had three hits, including a three-run homer in the ninth inning, to lift Washington to a 13-12 win over Atlanta on Tuesday.
Once one of the best power-hitting middle infielders in the game, Uggla has struggled mightily over the last couple years, but his home run against the Braves capped a dramatic comeback in a game Washington trailed 9-1 after two innings.
AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta in Kansas City, Mo., contributed to this report.