DETROIT — The Kansas City Royals knocked around Justin Verlander when they faced the Detroit ace last month.
Twice in a row? That was too much to ask.
Verlander breezed through eight innings and Prince Fielder hit a solo homer, helping the Tigers steady themselves with a 6-2 victory over Kansas City on Monday night. Detroit remained a game behind the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox.
The Tigers were swept in a doubleheader by Minnesota on Sunday, but Verlander (16-8) had little trouble with the Royals after allowing eight runs and 12 hits against them Aug. 28.
The right-hander allowed two runs and nine hits this time, striking out eight without a walk. Jose Valverde pitched the ninth.
Verlander threw 114 pitches, 89 for strikes.
"He just threw strike after strike after strike. There's not much you can do when he's throwing like that," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We had a couple good at-bats against him, but he was extremely good tonight. You just need to get lucky when he's going that well, and we didn't."
Luke Hochevar (8-15) yielded six runs — five earned — and 12 hits in 7 1-3 innings.
Alex Gordon homered for Kansas City.
The Tigers play three more games at home against the Royals before finishing the regular season with a six-game trip to Minnesota and Kansas City.
Fielder opened the scoring in the second with his 28th homer, and Alex Avila hit an RBI double later in the inning.
Gordon's 12th home run in the fourth cut the lead in half, and the Royals appeared poised to tie it in the fifth when they put runners on first and third with one out.
With Jarrod Dyson batting, Verlander hurt his left shoulder in bizarre fashion. Avila, the catcher, was making a routine throw back to the pitcher when his arm collided with the hand of plate umpire Bill Welke, causing the ball to scoot low across the ground in front of the mound. Verlander lunged to stop it and grimaced as he got up.
He was able to stay in the game — and struck out Dyson and Alcides Escobar to end the threat.
The Tigers padded their lead in the bottom half with another wacky play. With runners on first and second, Austin Jackson hit an RBI double down the right-field line, and another run came home when Jeff Francoeur's throw to second skipped away for an error. Gordon, the left fielder, retrieved the ball and easily threw out Jackson trying to advance to third — earning an assist on a play that began on the opposite side of the outfield.
"We try to entertain everybody," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "We try to give everybody a good piece of entertainment."
Andy Dirks made it 5-1 with an RBI single in the sixth.
Billy Butler had three hits for the Royals, including an RBI single in the eighth. He's hitting .396 (21 for 53) off Verlander but had plenty of kind words after the game about the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner.
"He had really good stuff. He always does," Butler said. "You can't even try to get his pitch count up, because it doesn't matter to him. He can throw 130 pitches and still be going strong."
NOTES: Leyland won his 600th game as Detroit's manager. ... Verlander took over the major league lead with 231 strikeouts, three more than teammate Max Scherzer. ... Hochevar allowed nine runs in four innings against the Tigers on May 1. ... Detroit RHP Anibal Sanchez (3-6) faces Kansas City LHP Bruce Chen (11-12) on Tuesday night.