DETROIT — Ian Kinsler singled leading off the bottom of the first inning, then was picked off.
Little did he realize that was the last baserunner Detroit would have for a while.
James Shields allowed two hits over seven innings in another terrific performance, and the Kansas City Royals edged the Tigers 3-0 on Wednesday night to take a one-game lead over Detroit atop the AL Central.
"That's pretty typical of him. He goes out and he pitches like that for 200 innings every year. That's what he does," Kinsler said.
The Tigers had won the first two games of the series to pull into a virtual tie for first in the division. The teams have a three-game set in Kansas City that starts Sept. 19.
Shields (14-7) gave up a single to Kinsler leading off the first. Then he picked off Kinsler — and retired every other batter he faced until another Detroit single in the seventh. The Tigers put two on that inning, but Shields worked out of the jam.
"It's definitely a game that we needed, for sure, but I think every game from here on out is pretty crucial," Shields said. "We took a couple tough losses there, the last couple days, but we're having fun right now and enjoying the moment."
"We won the series, and we're closer than we were when they got here. That's a positive," Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said. "You are disappointed any time you lose a game, especially now, but it is hard to sweep a series in the majors, and that's a very good team and James Shields is a very good pitcher. We didn't give anything away tonight. They beat us."
Alcides Escobar added a sacrifice fly in the ninth.
Shields was acquired in a December 2012 trade that sent top prospect Wil Myers to Tampa Bay. Myers won Rookie of the Year honors last season, but now Shields has helped put the Royals in contention for their first postseason appearance since 1985.
He came within two outs of a shutout in New York on Friday in a 1-0 win over the Yankees, and the Tigers didn't fare any better against him. Shields struck out eight and walked one on Wednesday, throwing 98 pitches. Torii Hunter's comebacker hit Shields in the back of his right leg in the first, but the Kansas City starter was able to continue.
The game was delayed 42 minutes by rain at the start, and in the fourth it was raining hard enough to send fans toward the concourse, but there were no more delays.
Porcello struck out four of the first five Kansas City batters. He allowed two runs and seven hits in 6 2-3 innings, striking out seven without a walk.
"We were throwing the fastball down and away and throwing more off-speed stuff, and it seemed to have them off balance for the first few innings," Porcello said. "I just left a few pitches up in the fourth."
Royals: All-Star closer Greg Holland sat out again, despite the tight score in the late innings. He hasn't pitched since Sept. 3 because of a triceps issue.
"Greg felt fine today," manager Ned Yost said. "My whole mindset was, I was going to go up to the point where Greg said, 'OK, I don't feel anything' — and then give him another day."
Tigers: RHP Joakim Soria (left oblique strain) was activated from the disabled list before the game. He allowed a run in the ninth. ... Left-handed reliever Phil Coke left in the eighth with a muscle spasm in his lower back after being unable to field Hosmer's bunt.
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