KANSAS CITY - Needing a win to keep pace in the AL Central, the Detroit Tigers ran into a familiar nemesis: the Kansas City Royals.
Brian Bannister won for the sixth time in seven decisions, Alex Gordon hit a three-run double, and the Royals beat the Tigers 6-3 last night.
"We've got to pitch better," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "Our starting pitchers have to get on a roll if we're going to do anything."
Detroit dropped 3 1/2 games behind division-leading Cleveland, the Tigers' biggest deficit in their division since before play on June 6. The lowly Royals are 5-8 against Detroit this season after taking three in a row from the Tigers on the final weekend of last season - costing Detroit first place and forcing the Tigers into the wild-card berth.
"I know what they are playing for," Bannister said. "They're going for first place or at least the wild card. They've got a lot on the line right now. I know that. They are putting their A lineup out there. I know they know Cleveland won tonight."
Nate Robertson (7-11) gave up six runs, six hits, and four walks in 41/3 innings, his shortest outing since June 5. Robertson is 1-5 in his past eight starts.
Magglio Ordonez went 4-for-5 and is hitting .404 in August. Detroit, which outhit the Royals 16-6, stranded 13 runners, including 10 when Bannister was pitching. The Tigers grounded into two double plays and went 4-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
"We got a lot of hits, and they got timely hits," Leyland said. "We get 16 hits and didn't take advantage of a lot of opportunities. When we get 16 hits, normally a couple go over the fence."
Bannister (11-7) leads AL rookies with a 3.27 ERA, and his victories are the most by a Royals rookie starter since Kevin Appier won 12 games in 1990. Bannister gave up two runs and 11 hits in six innings, striking out five and walking one. He is 6-1 with a 2.31 ERA in his past eight starts.
"It had a playoff atmosphere," Bannister said. "You could cut the tension with a knife. They forced my hand and put me in tough spots where for several innings I had to make do-or-die pitches. They are right up there with Boston, New York, and Seattle as being the toughest lineups out there. They are just so well put together. You don't have much room to breathe out there."