DETROIT -- The Detroit Tigers were overmatched at the plate, allowing Kyle Davies to be perfect through four innings.
Then, Miguel Cabrera stepped up to lead the way. Again.
Cabrera's leadoff single started a three-run fifth inning and Detroit held on to beat the Kansas City Royals 4-2 on Wednesday.
"Without him, we are probably in the cellar in our division," teammate Johnny Damon said. "That's how good he is."
The third-place Tigers, 15 games ahead of the last-place Royals in the AL Central, are hoping to make up a few games over the last two weeks of the season to finish behind only the division champion Minnesota Twins.
They also hope Cabrera wins the MVP award. He does, too.
"It's special," he said. "You want that in your career."
Cabrera was 1 for 3, ending the night with a .326 batting average. He leads the majors with 120 RBI and is among the leaders with 45 doubles, 35 homers and 105 runs.
"He's an MVP," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "I don't know if he'll get it."
Cabrera has doubts because he plays for a team that led the division just before the All-Star break, then plummeted out of the race in August.
"It was a tough year," he said.
It's been a pretty good season for Max Scherzer (12-10) since he was sent to Triple-A Toledo in late May to work on his mechanics. He gave up two hits and struck out eight over 7 2/3 innings against Kansas City, winning for the 10th time in 14 decisions.
"He very well could be the best pitcher in our league right now," Damon said.
After Scherzer was taken out, Ryan Perry got the final out of the eighth and Phil Coke pitched a shaky ninth.
Billy Butler hit a two-run, two-out homer in the ninth to pull the Royals within two, but their comeback hopes ended when Wilson Betemit struck out.
Davies (8-11) was perfect through four innings before giving up three runs on four hits, starting with Cabrera's single off a high pitch, in the fifth.
"Cabrera started it off with that single to break up the no-hitter, and that was actually a pretty good piece of hitting," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "It wasn't quite the pitch Kyle wanted to make, but I think that's about the only guy on that team that would fight that ball off for a single. I think most hitters would foul that ball off or swing and miss it."
Davies was dumbfounded that Cabrera got his bat head on the pitch.
"That ball's up about at his chin, out a little bit," he said. "But he's hitting .340 for a reason."
Davies ended up giving up four runs, seven hits and one walk over eight innings in his first complete game since last season and the third of his career.
"He pitched real good," Leyland said. "Scherzer just pitched better."
Rookie Brennan Boesch, who was a hot-hitting phenom before the All-Star break, hit a two-run double in the fifth to match his total of RBIs from the previous 16 games this month. Brandon Inge's single drove in the third and final run of the inning.
Detroit made some slick plays defensively. Second baseman Will Rhymes made a sliding stop on a shot up the middle and flipped the ball out of his glove to shortstop Jhonny Peralta to start a third-inning ending double play.
"It was a fancy play," Leyland said.
Kansas City 2B Chris Getz will likely miss the rest of the season because of symptoms from a concussion earlier this month. ... After an off day, Detroit will host Minnesota in a series that some thought would have ramifications in the division. Justin Verlander (17-8) will pitch for the Tigers against Francisco Liriano (14-8). Minnesota beat Detroit in the 163rd-game tiebreaker last year to win the division. ... Scherzer (181) and Verlander (198) are the first two Detroit pitchers with at least 175 strikeouts since 1974 when Mickey Lolich and Joe Coleman did it. ... Gregor Blanco of the Royals was 3 for 4 and is hitting .393 over the last nine games. ... Raburn is hitting .342 with 34 RBIs in his last 43 games. ... Jackson has 172 hits, the most by a Detroit rookie since Harvey Kuenn had 209 in 1953.