DETROIT — Bruce Chen allowed a couple runs in the first inning and escaped a big jam in the second.
By the time the Kansas City right-hander settled down, his chances for a win were already doomed.
Anibal Sanchez threw his first shutout in over a year, and the Detroit Tigers moved into a tie for first in the AL Central with a 2-0 victory over the Royals on Tuesday night.
"Sanchez did a real good job," Chen said. "One of those games where you just have to tip your hat."
Detroit pulled even with the White Sox with eight games to play after Chicago lost 4-3 to Cleveland earlier in the day.
"We control our own destiny. We've just got to continue to play good baseball," catcher Gerald Laird said. "We don't have to rely on anybody to beat anybody now. It's all on our shoulders."
Sanchez (4-6) retired the first 11 hitters he faced and allowed only three hits. He struck out 10 and walked one.
He threw 105 pitches in his first shutout since Sept. 10, 2011, when he tossed a one-hitter for Florida at Pittsburgh.
Chen (11-13) gave up RBI singles by Prince Fielder and Delmon Young in the first.
The Tigers trailed the White Sox by three games on the morning of Sept. 19, but they've made up the ground and will have a chance to win a second straight division title if they can finish strongly enough.
Sanchez pounded the strike zone early in his best start since coming over to Detroit from Miami in a July trade. Only one Royals player hit the ball out of the infield until Alex Gordon and Billy Butler had consecutive singles in the fourth for Kansas City.
Sanchez got out of that jam when Salvador Perez's line drive was snagged by third baseman Miguel Cabrera.
The Tigers hit six singles in the first two innings, but Chen was able to limit the damage by getting out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out situation in the second. Omar Infante hit a shallow fly, and Cabrera and Fielder both struck out.
"It was big," Chen said. "I think I did a real good job of sticking with the game plan. We were stubborn, didn't give in and struck those guys out."
Detroit didn't really threaten again until the seventh, when reliever Louis Coleman struck out Young with the bases loaded for the third out.
Chen allowed two runs and 10 hits in 6 2/3 innings.
Sanchez now has six quality starts in his last seven outings. In the third, he stopped Eric Hosmer's comebacker with his bare hand, picked up the ball and threw it hard over to Fielder at first for the out. He made another hard throw to first on Jarrod Dyson's 1-3 groundout in the eighth.
There was activity in the Detroit bullpen to start the ninth, but Sanchez returned to the mound to a warm ovation from the home crowd and retired the side in order.
"They came into the game knowing they had to win the game and that kid stood up," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He had an outstanding game."
Cabrera went hitless, ending his 14-game hitting streak.