DETROIT -- What more could the Royals want?
They beat up Justin Verlander en route to an 11-8 victory over Detroit on Monday night. They won their eighth straight game. They're just a half-game behind the first-place Tigers.
What more could they want? Well, by winning again on Tuesday night, the Royals would take over first place. Quite a feat for a team that, before this hot streak started, was tied for last place and was five games behind.
"Everybody's been in last place," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We kind of traded places being in last place for a while. We got on a nice little run here, made up some ground and we can just keep going."
One correction there. The Tigers have never been in last place. In fact, since the season began, they've never been out of first place. That's something the Royals could change.
They accomplished a lot of things to the dismay of a hometown crowd of 31,774 at Comerica Park. One of them was beating the Tigers for the first time this year after going 0-5 against them.
Left-hander Jason Vargas pitched seven solid innings and improved his record to 7-2. Omar Infante blasted a three-run homer and had four RBIs. Billy Butler smashed a three-run double. Lorenzo Cain made a Superman flight for a dazzling catch in center field.
Cain, ending an 0-for-15 skid, and Alex Gordon each had three hits and the Royals accumulated season highs with their 11 runs and their 17 hits.
The Tigers, meanwhile, made two costly errors and didn't do much until they whipped up six runs -- including J.D. Martinez's grand slam -- against left-hander Donnie Joseph in the ninth inning. That was a lot -- but too late.
"To beat a team as hot as they are, we have to play a lot better," said Tigers catcher Alex Avila.
The Tigers have lost 10 of their last 15 games and Verlander has dropped five of his last six starts.
"No matter what kind of a skid that Verlander's on, you expect him to get right back on track," said Butler. "It's one of those things where we capitalized on every mistake he made."
Butler kicked the Royals into gear with his bases-clearing double over center fielder Austin Jackson in the four-run fifth inning. That made Butler a .434 (33-for-76) hitter in his career against Verlander.
Infante added his three-run homer, also off Verlander, in the sixth inning. His single had driven in the Royals' first run of the game. So Infante is 8-for-20 on this road trip and has hit safely in seven straight games.
That added up to seven runs and 12 hits off Verlander, who was 15-2 against the Royals through 2012, but has slipped to 2-4 in the last two years. He beat them on May 4 at Kauffman Stadium.
"It's funny because the last time Justin pitched against Kansas City, he pitched well," said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus. "Everyone was saying even as he gets older and loses velocity, he's got the pitches to get people out. Right now, he's scuffling and everyone's saying he's done. I don't think he's done. I think Justin Verlander will be just fine."
Verlander heard boos as he left the mound after the sixth inning.
"The fans are frustrated and so am I," Verlander said. "That's part of the game. They've cheered me plenty. They have the right to boo because I was frustrated. I am too. If I was up in the stands, I'd boo myself too. I will get better. They'll cheer again."
The Royals parlayed four hits, including Gordon's double, with two Tigers errors for four runs in the seventh inning off reliever Evan Reed. The pitcher cost himself dearly when, with the bases loaded, he fielded the ball and tossed it past home plate and two runs scored on the error.
Cain's spectacular catch came in the sixth when he dove to catch Martinez's line drive in right-center field. Vargas classified it as extremely rare.
"It was fantastic. It just highlighted the game. It's a catch you don't see but maybe once or twice in your time of playing," Vargas said.
Cain amazed even himself.
"When I looked at it [on TV]," Cain said, "that was probably one of my better catches. Making a play and then going and actually seeing it -- wow. I kind of impressed myself a little bit."
A few things did go wrong for the Royals.
Butler, in the second inning, strayed from second base to third as Jackson was catching Cain's fly ball and was somewhat comically doubled up.
"I saw his [Jackson's] back turned and I saw his number and usually, as a baserunner, you see his number and it's going to drop," Butler explained. "It was just a baserunning boner on my part and I'm glad we made up for it."
Joseph, brought in to pitch the ninth inning with an 11-2 lead, contrived to give up six runs and make the game perilously close. After Martinez, filling in for injured Torii Hunter (hamstring cramp) walloped his grand slam, Joseph gave way to Michael Mariot, who struck out Jackson to end the game.
And Royals catcher Salvador Perez left the game in the seventh with leg cramps and third baseman Mike Moustakas was dinged in the forehead with a bad hop in the ninth but stayed in. Both declared they were OK after the game.
Mostly things went right.
"We feel good about how we're playing and about the direction we're going in," Vargas said.
That would be up.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.