11:37 PM EDT, June 17, 2014
DETROIT -- Another thumping of a Cy Young Award winner completed the Kansas City Royals' rapid ascent from worst to first.
Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas blasted two-run homers during a seven-run, second-inning outburst and the Royals took over first place in the American League Central Division with their ninth straight victory, an 11-4 thrashing of the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday night at Comerica Park.
Kansas City was in last place, four games below .500, and trailed Detroit (36-31) by 6 1/2 games on June 1.
The Royals have not been in first place this late in a season since Aug, 29, 2003.
"It's been a long time since we've been in this spot," Royals designated hitter Billy Butler said. "It's definitely the latest since I've been here that we've been in first. It's a good feeling but there's a lot of games left."
Butler and his teammates pounded Tigers starter Max Scherzer (8-3) for 10 runs and 10 hits in four-plus innings Tuesday. Coming off the first complete-game shutout of his career, Scherzer allowed the most runs he has surrendered since May 3, 2010, when he gave up 10 to Minnesota.
Kansas City smacked around Justin Verlander for seven runs and a season-high 12 hits during Monday's 11-8 victory.
"There are no secrets. We know what he's coming with and he's got tremendous stuff, but our offense is playing so well right now," Butler said of Scherzer. "One through nine, there are no breaks. It puts a lot of pressure on the pitcher."
Second baseman Omar Infante drove in three runs, and shortstop Alcides Escobar had three hits and scored three times for Kansas City (38-32).
Right-hander Yordano Ventura (5-5) allowed three runs in seven innings to get the victory.
Kansas City's turnaround began after a 4-0 loss at Toronto on June 1. It has won 12 of its last 14.
"Two weeks ago, we had a press conference and we were coming into a real tough stretch," manager Ned Yost said. "I said we better get our act together quick or we're going to be in trouble, and, man, we've got our act together. From that point on, we've played spectacular baseball. We got hot at the right time."
On the other side, the Tigers have continued to flounder since being 15 games over .500 on May 18. Scherzer doesn't sense any panic.
"We're really even-keeled," he said. "We've played great and we were even-keeled and we've played bad and we're even-keeled. Stretches like this happen. We're humans, not machines out there. You're going to play bad. I get it. But at the same time, we all need to rally around each other, believe in our talent and come ready to play every single day from here on out."
The Royals sent 11 men to the plate against Scherzer during their seven-run second inning. Gordon, the left fielder, hit his eighth homer for the first two runs, and third baseman Moustakas matched him with his seventh homer two batters later. Infante's two-run single and first baseman Eric Hosmer's RBI groundout made it 7-0.
"It came down to I didn't execute with two strikes," Scherzer said. "I'm not putting hitters away in those counts and that's the difference right now."
Third baseman Nick Castellanos and center fielder Austin Jackson drove in runs during the bottom of the inning to cut Detroit's deficit to 7-2.
The Royals tacked on three more runs in the fifth for a 10-2 lead.
NOTES: Royals RF Nori Aoki came out of the game in the second inning with a left groin injury. Manager Ned Yost does not expect Aoki to miss more than a day or two. His replacement, Lorenzo Cain, robbed Tigers RF J.D. Martinez of a two-run homer in the fourth. ...Tigers RF Torii Hunter was not in the lineup after leaving Monday's game with a right hamstring cramp. "I haven't felt that in 10 years," said Hunter, who hopes to return to the lineup by the weekend. ... The Tigers officially signed their first-round draft pick, OF Derek Hill of Elk Grove (Calif.) High School. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Hill, the No. 23 overall selection, reportedly received a $2 million signing bonus. ... Kansas City 1B Eric Hosmer, who scored his 250th career run Monday, became the third player in franchise history to have 250 runs and 250 RBIs before turning 25. He joined George Brett and Carlos Beltran. .... Royals 3B Danny Valencia began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Omaha on Tuesday. Valencia went on the 15-day disabled list June 1 due to a muscle strain in his left hand. Yost expects Valencia to get 25 to 30 minor league at-bats before returning to the major league club.
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