DETROIT (AP) - Prince Fielder went three weeks without a homer, and the Detroit Tigers kept right on rolling.
Now that drought's over - and Fielder's team is sitting pretty in the AL Central.
Fielder's two-run shot in the first inning Thursday night sent the Tigers to a 4-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals. Andy Dirks added four hits for Detroit, which leads second-place Cleveland by 6 1/2 games in the division.
Detroit’s Prince Fielder hits a two-run home run off Kansas City Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie in the first inning Thursday.
"Prince produces runs. I don't care how he does it," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "Tonight happened to be by way of the home run, but he's a run producer, always has been. It's in the book and it'll be in the book at the end of this year."
Dirks had two doubles and two singles for the Tigers, who took the opener of this five-game series with third-place Kansas City. The Royals have lost three in a row after a 17-3 stretch that put them in contention for a postseason spot.
Kansas City now trails Detroit by 8 1/2 games in the division. The Royals are 5 1/2 behind Oakland in the race for a wild card.
Detroit's Anibal Sanchez (11-7) allowed a run and seven hits in 7 1-3 innings. Bruce Rondon finished the eighth, and Joaquin Benoit pitched a hitless ninth for his 16th save in 16 chances.
Jeremy Guthrie (12-9) allowed four runs and 13 hits in seven innings.
Fielder went deep for the first time since July 24, belting a towering drive to right-center to give Detroit a 2-1 lead. The Tigers scored two more runs in the fifth on RBI singles by Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera.
Dirks, batting leadoff because Austin Jackson had the night off, scored twice. It was the second four-hit game of the season for Dirks.