Series: Game 1 of 3

Detroit leads 1-0 (as of 9/22)

Game 1: Friday, September 22
Kansas City3
Game 2: Saturday, September 23
Kansas City4
Game 3: Sunday, September 24
Kansas City4

Tigers 7

(92-62, 47-32 away)

Royals 3

(58-95, 34-45 home)

    8:10 PM ET, September 22, 2006

    Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri 

    123456789 R H E
    DET 020002003 7 9 2
    KC 002010000 3 5 3

    W: W. Ledezma (3-3)

    L: L. Hudson (7-6)

    Tigers bring down Royals to stretch Central lead

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Jim Leyland is as excited as he was when he was 28 years old and managing Clinton to a first-place finish in the Midwest League.

    Whether it's the major leagues or the minors, a young man or a graying veteran, there's nothing to compare with having your team in first place in a tight pennant race in September.

    "It's the same gut-wrenching, holding your breath," the 61-year-old skipper of the Detroit Tigers said. "I don't think it will ever go away."

    Sean Casey hit a two-run home run in the sixth for a 4-3 lead and the Tigers beat the Kansas City Royals 7-3 on Friday night to take a 1½-game lead over Minnesota in the AL Central.

    "Anybody who says you don't get excited, that your heart doesn't beat a little faster in this situation, I would never believe that," Leyland said. "I just don't buy that. They talk about managers, they say look how calm he is. You try to keep your composure at all times. Sometimes you lose it."

    The Twins lost 7-3 in Baltimore, and probably wish the Tigers did not have five games left with Kansas City.

    Detroit improved to 12-1 this season against the Royals. After two more games in Kansas City, they finish the season at home with three against Toronto and three more with the Royals, who must win five of their last nine to avoid a third straight 100-loss season.

    "We match up well against them, but they've been one of the best teams in the second half," Casey said. "They'e been knocking off good teams. We're not taking them lightly at all. They're not the same Royals as they were early in the year."

    It was the Royals' first game under bench coach Billy Doran. He took over for manager Buddy Bell, who underwent throat surgery on Friday.

    "We've got nine games left, and hopefully we'll do much better the rest of the time than we did tonight," Doran said. "We just didn't play very well tonight."

    Wilfredo Ledezma (3-3) allowed three runs -- one earned -- in 5 2-3 innings. He walked three and struck out four.

    Casey, a late-season acquisition from Pittsburgh, hit a 3-2 pitch from Luke Hudson over the fence in center to give the Tigers the lead.

    The Tigers added three runs in the ninth on reliever Ryan Braun's three-base throwing error, Omar Infante's RBI-triple and Andrew Sisco's wild pitch.

    Hudson (7-6) gave up a leadoff single to Ivan Rodriguez ahead of Casey's fourth homer. It was the Tigers' 118th road homer, adding to their team record.

    "Full-count fastball right down the middle," said Hudson, who went seven innings and gave up four runs and seven hits. "That lost us the game right there. It was supposed to be out. It was supposed to be away. It was just right over the middle."

    Carlos Guillen hit an RBI-triple for the Tigers in the second and scored on Matt Stairs' single for a 2-0 lead.

    Boneheaded defense cost the Tigers in the Royals' two-run second.

    With runners on first and second, Paul Phillips hit a sharp grounder to third baseman Brandon Inge. Instead of tagging the lead runner, who was coming right to him, Inge hesitated and then threw to second just in time to get that runner.

    Then Joey Gathright hit a slow roller to Ledezma, who picked up the ball and appeared to have time to get the runner coming to the plate. Instead, he threw wildly to first, allowing a second run across the plate.

    The Chicago White Sox also lost Friday, falling seven games behind the Tigers.

    "This is what all players and all managers and all organizations hope they get themselves into on a yearly basis," Leyland said. "Unfortunately, it doesn't always work that way. So you have to embrace it. I've been on both ends of the spectrum. I've finished last and I've finished first."

    Game notes

    Zack Greinke, 22, came out of the bullpen in the ninth to make his first appearance of the season. The right-hander left Kansas City in spring training and spent most of the season in the minors after undergoing treatment for emotional issues. He was the 31st pitcher the Royals have used, a franchise record. ... Detroit 2B Placido Polanco will be activated from the DL and play on Saturday. Leyland said Polanco would play Saturday but not Sunday. He's been out since mid-August with a shoulder separation. ... Mike Jirschele, the Royals' manger at Triple-A Omaha, will be interim bench coach.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press