Suddenly, nothing stops the Royals.
The winning streak hit four games Thursday afternoon when the Royals completed a three-game sweep of first-place Detroit with a 7-4 victory at Kauffman Stadium.
Not bad considering the Royals went six weeks without winning consecutive games before their current surge, which began Monday with a 6-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels, another first-place club.
The Royals built a 3-0 lead Thursday before Detroit struck back with two runs in the fifth inning and two more in the sixth. The Royals responded by regaining the lead with a two-run sixth before adding insurance runs in the seventh and eighth.
Yuniesky Betancourt had two hits and two RBIs in leading a balanced 13-hit attack that included contributions from every starter. Billy Butler, Willie Bloomquist and Mitch Maier also had two hits. Alex Gordon and Alberto Callaspo hit homers.
And here’s when you know things are going right: Butler blunted the possibility of a Detroit comeback by turning a hot liner by Miguel Cabrera into a double play in the ninth inning.
That was the fifth double play of the game the Royals turned on defense.
The Royals used five pitchers, each of whom spent most or all of the season at Class AAA Omaha: Lenny DiNardo, Yasuhiko Yabuta, Roman Colon, Dusty Hughes and Carlos Rosa.
Colon, 2-1, was the winner. Rosa pitched the ninth for his first career save and became the 128th pitcher in club history to record a save.
The winning streak boosts the Royals’ hopes of avoiding a fifth 100-loss in eight years. They are 55-85 and must go 8-14 or better in their remaining 22 games to avoid triple figures.
The victory also pulled the Royals to within 5 1/2 games of the Indians in their quest to escape a last-place finish in the American League Central Division. The two teams open a three-game series Friday in Cleveland. DiNardo made his first big-league appearance in more than 13 months. He held the Tigers to two runs and seven hits in five innings. He surrendered two soft runs in the fifth inning after a misplay by Maier in center.
DiNardo’s chance for a victory slipped away when Yabuta coughed up a run in the sixth inning by sandwiching two singles around a wild pitch -- the Royals’ MLB-leading 81st wild pitch of the season.
Detroit starter Jarrod Washburn also settled for a no-decision after the Tigers rallied back from a 3-0 deficit. He allowed three runs and seven hits in five innings and was positioned, briefly, for a victory.
That sixth inning was a mess after Yabuta retired Marcus Thames on a pop to short. Brandon Inge singled to left and went to second on the wild pitch. Wilkin Ramirez tied the game with a single up the middle.
That finished Yabuta.
Colon induced a grounder from Gerald Laird that scooted under Betancourt’s glove at short for a single that moved Ramirez to second.
The Tigers started the runners on a 1-1 pitch to Adam Everett. That led Gordon to break toward third, and he couldn’t recover in time when Everett pulled the ball past the base.
Ramirez hurdled a diving Gordon and scored the go-ahead run on what turned into a double for Everett. Colon prevented further damage by retiring the next two hitters.
The Royals shook it all off.
They pulled even immediately in their sixth when Gordon cranked a 403-foot homer to right against reliever Zach Miner. Betancourt then drew a walk and went to second on a bunt single by David DeJesus, who extended his hitting streak to a season-high 11 games.
Bloomquist popped out, but Butler pulled an RBI single through the left side -- and the Royals were back on top at 5-4. It was Butler’s second hit, which marked his sixth straight multi-hit game.
Colon allowed successive one-out singles in the seventh before exiting with runners at second and third with two outs. Hughes, summoned for a lefty-lefty matchup against Curtis Granderson, induced an inning-ending grounder to second.
The Royals extended their lead to 6-4 in the seventh against three Tigers’ relievers. Singles by Brayan Peña and Maier, 6-5, finished Miner. Fu-te Ni loaded the bases by walking Gordon before Eddie Bonine yielded a sacrifice fly to Betancourt.
Hughes pitched out of a two-on, one-out jam in the eighth by getting Placido Polanco to ground into a double play -- the fourth of the game by the Tigers.
Callaspo’s homer in the eighth boosted the lead to 7-4 and extended his hitting streak to 10 games. It had to survive a video-replay review before becoming official.