DETROIT (AP) — Ian Kennedy knew his good stuff was back by late July. He had nothing to show for it until Monday night, though.
The right-hander took three straight no-decisions for the Kansas City Royals while allowing two runs in 19 1/3 innings. He gave up 13 hits and struck out 17, yet his winless streak reached eight starts.
Against the Tigers, though, his hard work paid off. Kennedy held Detroit to one run on five hits and a walk in 6 2/3 innings to win for the first time since July 26.
“It was Houston, right?” Kennedy said after Kansas City’s 3-1 win. “I know it has been a while. You can’t really control wins, and I know I’ve been giving the team a chance to win, but it is nice to finish one off with a W.”
J.D. Martinez hit a solo homer in the seventh, but that was Kennedy’s only costly mistake.
“I didn’t strike a lot of guys out tonight, but I was getting weak contact,” he said. “Against a team like Detroit, you’ll take that. I just left one fastball up to J.D.”
Three relievers finished, with Kelvin Herrera pitching the ninth for his fifth save.
“That was a great job by Ian and then by the ‘pen,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “We gave them a couple extra outs in the last two innings, but our guys didn’t blink.”
The Tigers, who came into the game with three everyday starters on the disabled list, lost slugger Miguel Cabrera after four innings to a strained left biceps. Cabrera appeared to injure himself in a first-inning collision with Cheslor Cuthbert at first base, but batted twice before leaving the game.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus didn’t think the injury was serious.
“We’ll wait and see how he feels tomorrow,” Ausmus said. “But I wouldn’t be surprised if he tells me he’s fine and he wants to play.”
Chasing a playoff spot, the Tigers need Cabrera to return quickly. They are missing center fielder Cameron Maybin, third baseman Nick Castellanos and shortstop Jose Iglesias, along with starting pitchers Jordan Zimmermann and Mike Pelfrey.
“Injuries are a part of the game, and we’re not going to bury our faces in our sand,” Ausmus said. “We can’t do anything but come back tomorrow.”
Daniel Norris (1-1) took the loss, allowing two runs — one earned — in 5 1/3 innings. He gave up six hits and walked four while striking out one. He also made the error that led to the unearned run.
“That’s probably the worst I’ve felt on the mound in a long time, at least in terms of mechanics,” he said. “You’ve got to grind things out and last as long as you can, and I just hoped I would figure something out along the way.”
Paulo Orlando started the game with a four-pitch walk, then went to third when Norris threw away Cuthbert’s infield single, leading to the collision with Cabrera as he reached for the ball. With one out, Eric Hosmer hit a line drive to deep left-center, and though Tyler Collins ran it down, Orlando scored easily on the sacrifice fly.
Kansas City added to the lead in the sixth. With one out, Alex Gordon doubled and went to third on Norris’ wild pitch. After a walk to Alcides Escobar put runners at the corners, Alex Wilson came in to pitch and Raul Mondesi laid down a safety squeeze.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who had replaced Cabrera at first base, fielded the bunt cleanly but hesitated before making a play, giving Mondesi an RBI single.
“Raul put that bunt in a perfect spot,” Yost said. “They didn’t have a chance to get the runner at the plate.”
Martinez made it 2-1 with his homer in the seventh — his second in two days and the 101st of his career. Casey McGehee singled with two outs, bringing Peter Moylan out of the Royals’ bullpen.
James McCann hit an infield single, but pinch-hitter Mike Aviles popped out to end the inning.
The Royals added an insurance run in the ninth on Lorenzo Cain’s RBI single off Blaine Hardy.
Royals: LHP Jason Vargas, out since July 2015 after Tommy John surgery, will begin a rehab assignment with Double-A Northwest Arkansas this week. Vargas is scheduled to pitch three innings Wednesday, but there is no timeline for a possible return to the majors.
Tigers: Pelfrey, sidelined since Aug. 1 with a back strain, will not be activated from the DL when he becomes eligible on Tuesday. He has only progressed as far as throwing on the side, but he’s planning on a tougher workout Friday. Once he can throw off a mound, Pelfrey is expected to make at least one rehab start before returning to the rotation.
The Tigers, already short-handed after Cabrera’s injury, lost Collins in the bottom of the eighth when he was ejected by plate umpire Dan Iassogna for arguing a called third strike. Andrew Romine, the last position player available, replaced Collins in center field for the ninth.
The teams continue their three-game series Tuesday, with aces Danny Duffy (9-1, 2.82 ERA) and Justin Verlander (12-6, 3.42) squaring off. Verlander is 22-8 with a 3.21 ERA in 40 career starts against the Royals, giving him the most wins against Kansas City of any active pitcher.
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