DETROIT -- Pardon Detroit manager Jim Leyland if he was doing a double-take as he watched this Kansas City club rack up 18 hits and whip his first-place Tigers, 9-5.
Everyone in the Royals' starting lineup hit safely in Monday night's victory: Alex Gordon had a home run among four hits; Salvador Perez had his first Major League homer among his three hits; Johnny Giavotella banged a three-run double; and even Alcides Escobar ripped a homer.
"This isn't the Royals team that has been way out of the race from the start," Leyland said. "This is a different team. Some of their younger players are very aggressive. Good-looking young players, they're very athletic and they were very aggressive with the bats tonight."
Most of the damage was inflicted on Tigers starter Max Scherzer and the beneficiary was right-hander Luke Hochevar, who pitched into the eighth inning and picked up his ninth win.
"We swung the bats well, and against a guy like Scherzer, who's pitched well all year, that was big for us," Hochevar said. "And then it was just a matter of going out and executing pitches from there. When you get that kind of run support, that's big."
It was the second straight loss for the Tigers, disappointing most of the 32,423 fans at Comerica Park, but they've still won nine of their past 13 games and are five games ahead of Chicago and 5 1/2 ahead of Cleveland in the American League Central.
Scherzer, the former University of Missouri pitcher and a St. Louisian, didn't last long against the visitors from his home state. By the fourth inning, he was gone and the Tigers trailed, 7-3. And Scherzer had given up three home runs, including Gordon's 19th of the season, which opened the game.
"We faced Detroit a little bit ago, and Scherzer in my first at-bat came fastball, fastball, fastball when I led off the game so that's how he started -- four fastballs. And the last one, I was kind of expecting it," Gordon said.
The 2-2 pitch landed over the right-field wall.
Perez's first homer in the Majors started the fourth inning and it was a whopper, a 415-footer that bounced up against the brick wall behind the left-field bleachers. It hit near the retired No. 2 of Charlie Gehringer on the wall display that honors Tigers legends.
"Oh, my god, I crushed that ball," Perez said, with a laugh. "Unbelievable. Wow, to hit my first home run like that."
Escobar followed with his drive into the left-field seats, his third homer this season.
Perez also had an RBI double, and while he's treasured for his defensive skills, he's batting .295 with eight RBIs in his first 16 big league games.
The other Scherzer tormentor was Giavotella, who came up with the bases loaded and two outs in the third. Giavotella belted a three-run double to left and was thrown out trying for third, but the damage was done.
Giavotella also singled in the second inning and scored on Perez's double. Perhaps Giavotella felt confident against Scherzer; on Aug. 7 in Kansas City, Giavotella hit his first big league homer and a double in a 4-3 KC win.
"I don't know what it is with Scherzer," he said. "I've been putting good swings on the ball the last couple weeks and just didn't have much to show for it. But tonight was a little different and they found some holes in the first few innings."
Hochevar began the eighth inning, but was removed immediately when Miguel Cabrera led off with a single. Left-handed reliever Tim Collins gave up a single to Victor Martinez, and when Gordon muffed the ball in left field for an error, Cabrera scored. A walk to Alex Avila got Collins lifted for right-hander Blake Wood, who induced Jhonny Peralta to hit into a double play and struck out ex-Royal Wilson Betemit.
In the dugout, manager Ned Yost was able to breathe a lot easier.
"You never feel comfortable against them, even though you have a four- or five-run lead," Yost said. "When things happen, the middle of that lineup is as good as you're going to face with Cabrera and Martinez and Avila. And Peralta's hurt us all year long. So they're a potent lineup that can put some runs on the board in a hurry. That's why Woody's double play was so big with Peralta. It snuffed out that inning and that was huge."
Wood was rewarded with his first save in the Majors. That and Perez's first homer touched off some noisy and traditional "first" celebrating in the visitors' clubhouse after the game.
"Beer shower," Perez explained, smiling.
The Kansas City kids have their fun, but they're growing up. And in the Tigers' eyes, pretty fast.
"They can play, you have to give credit to who is out there," Martinez said. "We just got beat tonight."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.