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 1-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

"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

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.