DETROIT (AP) Brad Ausmus called the Tigers' series against the Kansas City Royals the biggest of the season so far.
Detroit got off to a good start.
Torii Hunter had two of his three hits in a six-run third inning and Detroit beat Kansas City 9-5 Monday to move within a game of the American League Central-leading Royals.
''I thought there was going to be more energy in our ballclub today (than in recent games), because we're looking up at the Royals in the standings and this is our chance,'' the manager said after the win.
The win was the Tigers' 9,000th in franchise history.
Justin Verlander (13-12) allowed four runs and six hits in seven innings, walking one and striking out four for Detroit, which moved into a tie with Seattle for the second AL wild card.
''It was pretty good,'' Verlander said. ''They put up a couple runs in a couple innings, but even after they got those two early runs, I went back and watched the video and those were all good pitches. They've just got a good lineup.''
Nick Castellanos had two hits, two runs and two RBIs for the Tigers. Victor Martinez had three hits and an RBI, and Hunter scored twice and drove in a run.
Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie (10-11) allowed eight runs - six earned - and 10 hits in 2 2-3 innings. Guthrie has given up 14 earned runs in his last 6 2-3 innings against Detroit.
''We were down six and I knew we were going to battle back and make it interesting,'' Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. ''We had the tying runs on in the eighth.''
Lorenzo Cain hit an inside-the-park home run for the Royals in the seventh inning. Eric Hosmer had three hits with an RBI for the Royals.
Seven of Detroit's first eight batters got his in the third, which began with Hunter's infield single. Martinez's infield hit drove in the first run, glancing off the glove of first baseman Hosmer toward the dirt behind second. Don Kelly's double made it 4-2, Castellanos hit a two-run double and RBI singles by Alex Avila and Hunter boosted the lead to 8-2.
''He was one pitch away from getting out of that third inning but it just kept snowballing and he couldn't make that pitch,'' Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Detroit tied a season high with eight hits in the inning. The last time it happened was in the fifth inning July 10 at Kansas City, a 16-4 win. That inning was also started by Guthrie.
Detroit took a 2-0 lead in the second on a two-out, two-base error by Hosmer on Andrew Romine's grounder with the bases-loaded. Hosmer bobbled the ball and then threw wildly to Guthrie, who was covering first. Romine wound up on second.
Royals: LHP Danny Duffy, who was hurt on his first pitch Saturday, had an MRI on his sore shoulder Monday. It showed no structural damage. Yost said that Duffy should only miss one start. ''He's in Kansas City going through three or four rounds of treatment every day,'' Yost said. ... Closer Greg Holland, who hasn't taken the team's last two save opportunities because of a triceps injury, is getting closer to returning. Yost said Holland hasn't thrown off the mound yet but did throw on the side on Monday. Yost said he is hopeful that Holland will be available on Tuesday.
Tigers: RHP Joakim Soria (left oblique strain) threw 27 pitches in a simulated game and felt good. ''Big step today. Hopefully, it feels good tomorrow,'' Soria said. Ausmus said Soria threw all of his pitches and that Soria looked strong. If Soria feels good on Tuesday, he will likely be activated on Wednesday.
Tuesday night's starters are Jason Vargas (11-7, 3.14) for the Royals and Max Scherzer (15-5, 3.25) for the Tigers. Scherzer is 9-5 in his career against Kansas City.
Hunter, in right field, and Kelly, playing center, collided in right-centerfield on Cain's home run in the seventh. Hunter caught the ball but it came out of his glove and rolled to the wall when he and Kelly collided. Hunter was down for a couple of minutes. But he remained in the game after being checked by a trainer.
The Tigers-Royals wasn't the only big game in downtown Detroit on Monday. The Detroit Lions hosted the New York Giants in the NFL Monday Night Football opener at Ford Field, which is across the street from Comerica Park. The football game began at 7:10 p.m., and that's why the start of the baseball game was moved from its original 7:08 to 4:08.