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DETROIT — Most of the 32,360 fans at Comerica Park groaned when Jhonny Peralta hit a tailor-made double-play grounder that looked set to end the eighth inning.
Andy Dirks made them cheer.
Jhonny Peralta's grounder brought home the go-ahead run because Dirks' hard slide broke up a potential inning-ending double play in the eighth and the Detroit Tigers beat the Kansas City Royals 5-4 Wednesday night.
"I was just trying to break up the double play and try to get a piece of him any way I could to help us score that run," Dirks said. "That's just kind of the way you play baseball."
Detroit wound up alone in first place for the first time since before play on July 24 when the White Sox lost to Cleveland later.
Triple Crown candidate Miguel Cabrera was robbed of a tiebreaking homer in the fifth inning by Alex Gordon's catch above the left-field wall.
Detroit found a way to break through the eighth.
It appeared as if Kansas City was going to keep the score tied when Peralta hit a grounder to third baseman Mike Moustakas. Dirks, though, slid so late and hard that second baseman Irving Falu didn't attempt a throw, allowing pinch-runner Don Kelly to score what he said was most important run of his career.
"Peralta was slow getting out of the box, so that's an easy double play," Moustakas said. "I'm always going to go to second on that play, but Dirks did a heck of a job to break it up."
Dirks was swarmed by teammates in the dugout to celebrate the gritty, clean play he made.
"That's good, old-fashioned baseball," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
Delmon Young hit an infield single with one out in the eighth off Kelvin Herrera (4-3) and was replaced by Kelly, who stole second base and took third on Dirks' single.
Detroit's Alex Avila hit a two-run homer and Austin Jackson had a solo shot in the fourth inning to tie the game.
Cabrera, who went 0 for 4, started the day with the AL lead in batting average and RBIs and was one homer behind Texas' Josh Hamilton. Baseball hasn't had a player lead a league in all three categories since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
Cabrera was close to pulling into at least a temporary tie with Hamilton for homers, but Gordon prevented him from hitting his 43rd homer.
"It was hit so high that I had plenty of time to find the fence and get ready," Gordon said. "I thought I might have to climb the wall or at least jump, but at the end, I just had to put my glove up."
The Tigers have won six of nine games on their final 10-game homestand and 32 of their last 43 games at Comerica Park. They had, however, lost 11 straight one-run games since beating Toronto 3-2 on Aug. 23.
Kansas City has lost four straight — three consecutive against Detroit — after winning four in a row, including two against the White Sox.
"I love my team," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We've played three games here, and we're 0-3, but we're in these games and we're not far from the point where we are going to be consistently winning these teams.
"No matter what has happened this year, we've gotten knocked down and gotten right back up. These guys fight every day, and they are going to do everything in their power to beat Detroit in these games."
Detroit starter Rick Porcello lasted just four innings, giving up four runs and seven hits.
"His velocity dropped and that was a red flag for me," Leyland said.
Luis Marte got two outs in the fifth and Al Alburquerque gave up only one hit over 2 1-3 innings. Joaquin Benoit (4-3) allowed one hit in the eighth. Jose Valverde closed the game for his 32nd save in 37 chances.
Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie allowed four runs on seven hits and two walks over seven innings.
Young doubled and Dirks singled to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead in the second.
Kansas City went ahead 3-1 in the third inning after Falu, David Lough and Billy Butler doubled. Jeff Francoeur's solo homer in the fourth inning gave the Royals a three-run lead.
NOTES: Detroit is sending Doug Fister (10-9) to the mound in its final scheduled home game Thursday afternoon against Kansas City and Luis Mendoza (8-9) before the Tigers close the regular season on the road against Minnesota and the Royals. ... Guthrie was 4-0 with a 1.75 ERA in his previous nine starts all of which were Kansas City wins. ... Porcello, who hadn't pitched since Sept. 16 because a rainout led to his previous scheduled start getting skipped, is 0-6 in his last eight outings. ... Yastrzemski told reporters in Boston on Wednesday that playing meaningful games down the stretch with help Cabrera's attempt to win the Triple Crown. "One thing that's going to help him is he's in a pennant race," Yastrzemski said. ... Falu matched a career high with three hits.