KANSAS CITY — Bruce Chen allowed four hits over a season-high eight innings, and Eric Hosmer's infield single in the fourth drove in the only run in the Kansas City Royals' 1-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday night.
The last time Chen (10-10) lasted eight innings was last September, in his final two starts of the year. The veteran left-hander hadn't even gone seven in his past 11 outings.
Anibal Sanchez (2-4) matched him pitch for pitch most of the night, finally looking like the guy the Tigers thought they were acquiring in a July trade with Florida. Sanchez allowed seven hits in seven innings, but the RBI single off the fists by Hosmer proved to be decisive.
Greg Holland earned his ninth save with a shaky ninth inning, allowing a leadoff single to Andy Dirks. Jarrod Dyson likely saved the tying run with a diving grab in center, and after Prince Fielder singled, Holland struck out Delmon Young and Jhonny Peralta to end the game.
Holland has allowed only one run over his last 19 1/3 innings.
The Tigers came to town hoping to make up ground on the AL Central-leading White Sox, but the third-place Royals have gotten the most of them through the first two games of the series.
Kansas City battered reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander in the opener Tuesday night, scoring eight earned runs in 5 2/3 innings. Mike Moustakas then delivered the go-ahead RBI double in the eighth to give the Royals a 9-8 victory.
They did it with pitching and defense Wednesday night, getting Chen's best start of the year and turning a pair of inning-ending double plays to help him out.
Sanchez was nearly as good the first three innings but couldn't wriggle out of trouble in the fourth, the lone run scoring on possibly the weakest-hit ball of the night.
Moustakas doubled down the right-field line with one out and Hosmer came to the plate with two outs. He managed to catch a pitch so close to the hands that it popped over Sanchez's head like a knuckleball, and dropped with a thud between the mound and second base.
Sanchez tried to grab it while whirling toward first, but he just about whiffed on the pick-up and Hosmer had an RBI single. Brayan Pena grounded out to leave the score 1-0.
Meanwhile, Chen was making sure the lone run would stand up.
After giving up a leadoff double to Austin Jackson, the 35-year-old left-hander pitched 1-2-3 innings in the second and fourth, and got help from Moustakas in starting inning-ending double plays to get Kansas City out of the third and fifth.
The most perilous situation came in the seventh, when Miguel Cabrera scorched a pitch to center for a leadoff double. Cabrera advanced to third on Fielder's flyout, and Chen hit Young with a pitch to put runners on the corners with one out.
Relying on his deep repertoire of off-speed stuff, Chen struck out Peralta and then watched Moustakas charge a grounder to third by Jeff Baker and throw him out to end the threat.
Chen retired the side in the eighth before Holland slammed the door in the ninth.