KANSAS CITY, Missouri — In Jason Vargas's opinion, the job of the starting pitcher is to set the right tone.
He helped do that Friday night. He just did it for the wrong team.
The Royals left-hander was pounded by the Tigers before getting yanked in the fourth inning, and his counterpart Justin Verlander proceeded to shut down Kansas City in 10-1 win that allowed Detroit to add another game to its AL Central lead.
"A lot can be said to how you start the game off and the way you're able to pitch out of certain situations," Vargas said. "I wasn't able to do any of that."
Vargas allowed five runs on nine hits in 3 1-3, his shortest outing since April 16, 2013.
The Tigers (85-68), who now lead the division by 1 1/2 games, have forged their advantage by dominating head-to-head matchups. They are 12-5 against the Royals his season.
"We just made sure we came in ready to hit," the Tigers' Victor Martinez said. "They have a great pitching staff. We were able to take advantage of his mistakes."
Verlander (14-12) had all the support he needed by the end of the first inning, when the Tigers had shelled Vargas (11-10) for three runs on five hits. Detroit tacked on a run in the second, another in the fourth and then broke things open with a five-run fifth.
Meanwhile, Verlander allowed just one run on seven hits in 7 1-3 innings.
"He certainly seemed like he was up for this game," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "It was there up there with one of the best games he's had all season."
Now, it's up to the Royals to bounce back in a hurry.
"There's no carry-over," manager Ned Yost said. "They whipped us, they beat us, they spanked us, whatever you want to say. We'll show up again tomorrow and be ready to play."
Kansas City came into the weekend off a momentum-building win over the White Sox, and a day off Thursday allowed anticipation of the series to swell. Fans snatched up every last ticket, pounding the plastic "thundersticks" given away at the turnstiles as the Royals opened arguably their most important set of games since the 1985 World Series.
It took about 15 minutes for silence to grip the ballpark.
Kinsler led off the game with a single, and after Torii Hunter flied out, the Tigers rapped out three straight hits to take the lead. Hunter got his hit the next inning, an RBI double, and James McCann became the last Detroit player in the starting lineup with a hit in the fourth.
His single and ensuing stolen base were the first of McCann's career.
Royals relievers Casey Coleman and Louis Coleman could do little to stop the bleeding as the Tigers pounded out 15 hits by the fifth inning. And those fans that had packed "the K" to see the first act of a pennant-chase drama? Many were already streaming for the exits.
That included 35-year-old Victor Martinez, whose run-scoring single in the first inning gave him 100 RBIs to go with 31 home runs. The only players older than him to become first-time members of the 30-100 club have been Carlton Fisk (1985) and Edgar Martinez (2000).
"It's nice," Martinez said, "but at the same time, I don't look at those numbers. We're in the middle of a race. That's all that matters."
BLOWOUTS AT THE K
Detroit has outscored Kansas City 60-21 in eight games at Kauffman Stadium this season. "We love the backdrop," Hunter said. "We love the stadium."
CHECK THE BOX SCORE
With the game out of reach early, both managers substituted liberally, giving their stars a chance to rest with a noon first pitch on Saturday. They combined to use 31 position players.
Tigers: C Alex Avila remains sidelined with concussion-like symptoms. He tried working out Friday but again felt dizzy. ... RHP Anibal Sanchez (strained chest muscle) had no issues after a bullpen session Thursday. He plans to throw a simulated game Sunday.
Royals: LHP Tim Collins was recalled from Triple-A Omaha. The Royals considered bringing him back a few weeks ago, but Royals manager Ned Yost said a back injury kept him in the minors.
Tigers: RHP Max Scherzer (16-5) tries to beat Kansas City for the second time in less than two weeks. He allowed one run over 6 1-3 innings in a 4-2 victory on Sept. 9.
Royals: RHP James Shields (14-7) beat Detroit at Comerica Park the following day, tossing seven shutout innings. He only allowed two hits and a walk in that game.
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