The Detroit Tigers failed to make up ground on the pacesetting Chicago White Sox in the hotly contested American League Central division when they lost 2-1 to the Kansas City Royals on Thursday.
The White Sox were beaten 5-3 by the Baltimore Orioles earlier in the day but the Tigers did not take advantage as the Royals rode strong pitching by Jeremy Guthrie to complete a three-game series sweep.
Right-hander Guthrie (3-3) allowed just one run on 10 hits, nine of them singles, while Alex Gordon struck his 10th homer leading off the sixth to bolster the Kansas City offense.
"I was going to go out there and throw strikes, and when you throw strikes, guys put some swings on them," Guthrie, who has made eight starts for the Royals since they acquired him in a July 20 trade, told reporters.
"The biggest thing was I was able to keep nine of them to singles and just allow one extra-base hit. That was kind of the big key in terms of allowing hits but no runs."
For Detroit, Rick Porcello (9-10) cruised through four innings before finding trouble on his way to a fourth straight loss, allowing two runs on eight hits and two walks.
The game turned in the fifth inning after the Royals loaded the bases with none out as Mike Moustakas doubled into the right-center gap, Jeff Francoeur singled to center and Eric Hosmer walked.
However, Porcello escaped with just one run in after Johnny Giavotella's groundout to shortstop Jhonny Peralta scored Moustakas.
"We were fortunate enough to get out of that inning with only one run," said Porcello. "And then in the sixth inning, that's the inning where I've got to be able to close and get us back in the dugout. It didn't happen, obviously."
In the sixth inning, the Royals went after Porcello as Gordon opened with a home run, Billy Butler doubled, Salvador Perez singled and Porcello was relieved by left-hander Darin Downs.
The Tigers (69-61) remain three games behind the White Sox in their head-to-head race for the division title and the teams now head to Detroit to begin a crucial three-game series on Friday night.
"We're a much better team than what we showed these past three games," said Porcello. "For us to be looking at what Chicago's doing and what's happening with them would be a mistake. We need to focus on ourselves, playing good baseball.
"We can't sit around and wait for other teams to lose. We've got to take the bull by the horns and go out and simply beat teams."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)