|Kansas City (70-86)||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||3||1||4||6||5|
|Detroit (84-72) «||2||2||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||5||8||0|
DETROIT -- Doug Fister was breezing along after striking out nine straight batters and setting an American League record.
Detroit led by four runs in the eighth inning -- but for the 2012 Tigers, nothing has come easy.
The Tigers nearly wasted Fister's dazzling streak, blowing a big lead late before beating the Kansas City Royals 5-4 on Thursday. They kept their advantage in the AL Central when Alex Avila drove home the winning run in the ninth with a bases-loaded grounder.
Detroit's lead in the AL Central grew to two games when the slumping Chicago White Sox lost to Tampa Bay 3-2.
"Getting a win is big," Avila said. "We have to be able to win tight games like this. It's the only way we're going to be able to get in the playoffs and go far in the playoffs."
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Detroit finished 50-31 at home this season -- and will now try to wrap up the division on the road. The Tigers play three games at Minnesota, followed by a season-ending three-game series at Kansas City.
Fister came within one strikeout of matching Tom Seaver's major-league record of 10 in a row. He struck out Salvador Perez to end the top of the fourth, starting a streak that didn't end until Perez grounded out to the shortstop on a two-strike pitch in the seventh.
"It's crazy, to go through a whole lineup and strike everybody out," Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur said. "And I don't think he threw more than four pitches to any of the batters."
The AL record of eight consecutive strikeouts had been accomplished several times, most recently by Kansas City's Blake Stein on June 17, 2001.
After Perez grounded out for the third out of the seventh, first baseman Prince Fielder put his arm around Fister as they headed back to the dugout.
"I said, 'Congratulations, man. You made history.' He was like, 'What are you doing?'" Fielder said. "He was locked in so it was kind of like, 'Get away from me.' I was like, 'All right, they'll tell you.'"
At that point, Fister had retired 16 straight hitters and Detroit led 4-0 -- but he was oblivious to the strikeout record.
"Honestly, I had no idea," Fister said. "[Fielder] was yelling at me to step off during the inning, and I kind of looked at him. Normally, he'll do that, to slow me down, if I'm getting too quick. ... I thought that was kind of what he was doing there. He just said, 'Hey, step off.' I look at him, and he kept looking at me, and he said, 'Aw, I'll tell you later.'"
Fielder led off the Detroit ninth with a chopper that went past the mound and charging shortstop Tony Abreu. The hefty slugger made it all the way to second for a double on a ball that only ended up a few feet beyond the infield.
Delmon Young was intentionally walked, and pinch-hitter Ramon Santiago bunted into a forceout at third, leaving runners at first and second. Kelvin Herrera replaced Tim Collins (5-4) on the mound and got Jhonny Peralta to hit what looked like a potential double-play grounder to third, but Mike Moustakas misplayed it for his third error of the game -- and Kansas City's fifth.
Avila hit a full-count pitch to first baseman Brayan Pena, who made a diving stop and touched the bag, but had no play at home.
"Pena still made a great play on that one," Fielder said. "Baseball is really hard because even if you're good, you have to be a little lucky, too."
Fister finished with 10 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings. He allowed two earned runs and five hits.
Kansas City's Luis Mendoza allowed two earned runs in seven innings.
Francoeur hit an RBI double in the eighth, Johnny Giavotella added an RBI groundout, and Abreu, pinch-hitting, drove in a run with a single to make it 4-3.
Detroit took a 4-0 lead thanks in part to four Kansas City errors in the first two innings.
Moustakas was charged with two errors on one grounder by Quintin Berry -- one for mishandling it and another for a bad throw. Fielder drove in a run later in the first with a single, advancing to second on an error by left fielder Alex Gordon.
Young hit a sacrifice fly, and Gordon threw Fielder out at home on a single by Andy Dirks to end the inning.
Berry's two-run triple in the second made it 4-0.
|Alex Avila's fielders-choice grounder to first scores Don Kelly (background) to deliver the victory. (Getty Images)|
|Players of the Game|
|Kansas City Royals|
|David Lough, CF||4||1||1||0||0||1||0||.244|
|Alcides Escobar, SS||3||0||0||0||0||1||0||.289|
|a- Tony Abreu, PH-SS||1||0||1||1||0||0||0||.302|
|Alex Gordon, LF||4||0||0||0||0||2||1||.291|
|Billy Butler, DH||4||1||1||1||0||1||0||.314|
|Salvador Perez, C||4||0||1||0||0||1||0||.294|
|Mike Moustakas, 3B||4||1||1||0||0||2||1||.243|
|Jeff Francoeur, RF||3||1||1||1||0||1||0||.237|
|Eric Hosmer, 1B||1||0||0||0||0||0||2||.232|
|Brayan Pena, 1B||2||0||0||0||0||1||1||.251|
|Johnny Giavotella, 2B||3||0||0||1||0||1||0||.228|
|a-singled for Escobar in the 8th|
|2B - Mike Moustakas (33, Fister), Jeff Francoeur (25, Fister)|
|HR - Billy Butler (28, Benoit)|
|RBI - Tony Abreu (13), Billy Butler (104), Jeff Francoeur (44), Johnny Giavotella (15)|
|2-OUT RBI - Tony Abreu (8)|
|Team LOB - 3|
|Outfield Assists - Alex Gordon 2|
|E - Alcides Escobar (19, Throwing), Alex Gordon (2, Misplayed grounder), Mike Moustakas 3 (14, Throwing)|
|Kansas City Royals|
|Tim Collins (L,5-4)||0.1||1||1||0||1||0||0||3.39|
|IBB - Young by Tim Collins|
|Pitches-Strikes - Luis Mendoza 86-57, Aaron Crow 11-9, Tim Collins 9-4, Kelvin Herrera 11-5|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Luis Mendoza 6-7, Aaron Crow 1-0, Tim Collins 1-0, Kelvin Herrera 2-0|
|Batters Faced - Luis Mendoza 27, Aaron Crow 3, Tim Collins 3, Kelvin Herrera 2|
|Austin Jackson, CF||3||1||0||0||1||3||0||.303|
|Quintin Berry, LF||4||1||1||2||0||0||0||.264|
|Miguel Cabrera, 3B||4||1||1||0||0||1||1||.326|
|Prince Fielder, 1B||4||0||2||1||0||1||0||.310|
|Delmon Young, DH||2||0||0||1||1||1||0||.272|
|Don Kelly, PR-DH||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||.187|
|Andy Dirks, RF||3||0||1||0||0||0||1||.319|
|a- Ramon Santiago, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||2||.206|
|Jhonny Peralta, SS||4||0||1||0||0||1||0||.242|
|Alex Avila, C||4||0||1||1||0||1||0||.248|
|Omar Infante, 2B||3||1||1||0||0||0||0||.277|
|a-hit into fielder's choice-bunting for Dirks in the 9th|
|2B - Prince Fielder (32, Collins)|
|3B - Quintin Berry (6, Mendoza)|
|SF - Delmon Young (7)|
|RBI - Quintin Berry 2 (29), Prince Fielder (105), Delmon Young (74), Alex Avila (48)|
|2-OUT RBI - Quintin Berry 2 (8)|
|CS - Jhonny Peralta (2, 2nd base by Mendoza/Perez)|
|Team LOB - 4|
|PB - Alex Avila (10)|
|Phil Coke (H,20)||0.1||0||0||0||0||0||0||3.93|
|Joaquin Benoit (BS,4; W,5-3)||1||1||1||1||0||1||1||3.23|
|HBP - Francoeur (by Doug Fister)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Doug Fister 99-70, Phil Coke 4-3, Joaquin Benoit 15-12|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Doug Fister 9-4, Phil Coke 1-0, Joaquin Benoit 1-1|
|Batters Faced - Doug Fister 29, Phil Coke 1, Joaquin Benoit 4|
|Attendance - 33019|
|Game Time - 2:23|
|Temperature - 59|
|Umpires - Home - Jeff Nelson, First Base - Bill Welke, Second Base - Cory Blaser, Third Base - Chris Guccione|