DETROIT (AP) - In his office before the final game of a tough series with Kansas City, Detroit manager Jim Leyland talked about the strides the Royals have made.
The Tigers may be in first place, but the young Royals looked every bit their equals this week.
``I'll be glad when they're gone,' Leyland said. ``They're a really good team right now, in my opinion.'
Before the Royals could leave, the Tigers had to play them one more time. Jeff Francoeur homered for his 1,000th career hit and drove in three runs, and Kansas City outlasted Detroit 11-8 on Thursday. The teams split the four-game set - and the Tigers needed late-inning rallies to win the middle two games.
Kansas City's Johnny Giavotella hit a tiebreaking two-run single in the seventh inning Thursday against Luis Marte, who was making his major league debut. Eric Hosmer added a solo shot in the eighth. Hosmer also had two singles and two walks.
Francoeur opened the scoring with a two-run homer in the second, reaching his milestone in style. His first hit as a major leaguer was also a homer, back in 2005 with the Atlanta Braves.
``To do it on a home run - even more special,' he said. ``My mom texted me, reminding me that my first in the big leagues was a home run and my 1,000th.'
Magglio Ordonez homered, doubled twice and stole a base for the Tigers, who lead Cleveland and the Chicago White Sox by 5 1/2 games in the AL Central. Detroit took an 8-6 lead on a two-run homer by Austin Jackson.
Aaron Crow (4-4) allowed three runs in the sixth, his only inning of work, but was credited with the win after the Royals reclaimed the lead in the seventh. Phil Coke (2-9) came in with a man on second and one out and allowed a walk to Hosmer, an RBI double to Francoeur and an RBI single by Mike Moustakas.
Coke hadn't allowed a run in his previous 13 outings. He was charged with three Thursday.
``The walk to Hosmer wasn't necessary, but Francoeur broke his bat on a ball off the plate, so you just have to tip your hat,' Coke said. ``I jammed the next guy, and he dropped one in. What can you do about that? No one is more irritated at the outcome than I am - I hate performances like that - but I can't control everything.'
Giavotella's soft single to left off Marte put Kansas City ahead to stay. Marte was brought up from Double-A earlier in the day as part of Detroit's expanded September roster.
``I don't know a thing about him, so I don't know if that's Marte nervous or Marte at his best or Marte at his worst,' Leyland said. ``That's why I went with him, because they had never seen him, and I wanted to see how he handled it. He did fine - he just got one pitch up.'
Joakim Soria earned his 25th save.
Detroit rookie Jacob Turner struggled in his second career start, allowing six runs and seven hits in 4 1-3 innings.
Kansas City's Danny Duffy had problems of his own, allowing five runs and six hits in five innings. He struck out four, walked three and overthrew his catcher on an intentional walk in the third inning for a bizarre wild pitch.
That was emblematic of a sloppy game. In the sixth, Kansas City's Alcides Escobar struck out swinging on an inside pitch that actually hit his right shoulder as he appeared to be trying to hold up his swing.
The Royals made up for those bloopers later on, and Francoeur, Hosmer and Giavotella had three hits each. Moustakas extended his hitting streak to 15 games, and Hosmer extended his to 10.
NOTES: Brandon Inge played his 979th game at third base for the Tigers, tying Tom Brookens for third at that position on the team's career list. ... The Tigers begin a big three-game series with the White Sox at home Friday night. They'll send ace Justin Verlander to the mound against John Danks. ... Kansas City hosts Cleveland for a three-game set. Bruce Chen will start Friday night for the Royals against Justin Masterson.
The Associated Press News Service
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