KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Of all the positive offensive developments for the Royals in their 10-6 victory over the Tigers on Thursday, three hits by Alex Gordon, including a homer, might be the most significant.
The production pushed Gordon's batting average to .303 and the three-hit game was his first since last August.
"One thing I wanted to work on this year was just believe in myself the whole year even if things weren't going well," Gordon said.
Things haven't gone well for Gordon at the plate on a consistent basis since 2015. He followed that season by hitting .220 in 2016 and .208 last year. He won his fifth Gold Glove in 2017 but the feeling in the batter's box was off.
This from a player who ranks in the team's top 10 in several major career offensive categories.
"Overall I just feel more comfortable right now," Gordon said. "Short, quick, not trying to do so much. Trying to beat the shift too."
Beating the shift is important for Gordon, who often finds three infielders on the right side when he steps in the box.
Thursday, he collected two shift-beating singles through the middle, and when he did pull a pitch it landed 422 feet away from the plate for his second homer of the season.
How hot is Gordon? He got off to a slow start this season, hitting .208 before a left hip labral tear. Since his return, Gordon is hitting .372/.426/.558.
The production has been felt throughout the lineup. The Royals remain at the bottom of the AL Central at 9-22, but they've won four of six and have averaged six runs per game during that span.
"He feels really good right now I feel good for him," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He works so hard, he grinds it out so hard. You'd never know but it wears on him too. We need his offense. We have to have it. But you feel good for him, too."
Gordon's fourth-inning solo home run came during a stretch when both teams scored in every inning from the third to the sixth.
After Royals had taken a 2-0 lead in the first inning, the Tigers responded with two in the third. Salvador Perez's two-run homer in the bottom half was the answer.
Then Gordon's blast in the fourth, and Jorge Soler's 441-foot solo moon shot in the fifth were the responses.
The knockout blow didn't come from a homer but from a base hit by Lucas Duda in the sixth.
The Tigers had sliced the Royals' lead to 7-6 when Duda ended a three-run frame by delivering the final two of his four RBIs on the day with a single.
Twice Thursday, Duda came up with two outs and runners in scoring position. Twice, Duda delivered run-scoring singles.
"It's about making hard contact," Duda said. "But first you have to give credit to guys getting on base."
Royals starter Eric Skoglund battled but couldn't duplicate the effort of his previous outing when he surrendered two hits in seven innings in beating the White Sox.
Skoglund lasted 42/3 innings and turned it over to a bullpen that came up with some big moments, perhaps none more so than Blaine Boyer against Nicholas Castellanos, who had a homer and double in his first four plate appearances.
But with two on for the Tigers in the eighth, Boyer got a called third strike from umpire Manny Gonzalez to end the inning.
The victory was rare in this sense: The Royals had only won one series opener in 10 attempts before Thursday. That helps explain why they haven't won a series all season.
Getting this one off to a good start, and with the way the Royals have been swinging the bats lately, bodes well.
"This is a bit of confidence for us," Duda said. "We got off to a slow start. It's an uphill battle. But we'll keep playing hard."