KANSAS CITY -- Memo to the American League: If you want to apply the shift and pack the right side of the infield against Prince Fielder, proceed at your own risk.
The Royals applied the shift against Fielder on Wednesday night and the left-handed power hitter promptly foiled the strategy in the seventh inning, stroking a grounder through the shortstop hole to drive in the winning run in the Tigers' 4-3 victory at Kauffman Stadium.
In sports, it's all about taking what the defense gives you. Instead of focusing on pulling the ball and playing to his power, Fielder beat the shift to send Detroit home with a three-game sweep of Kansas City and a 4-2 road trip.
"I see the hole over there," Fielder said. "I'm trying to learn from Miguel [Cabrera] how to go that way. I'm trying mostly to stay up the middle, but I know if I'm a little late I've got a lot of space over there. I was just trying to get the run in. Those RBIs are like gold."
The majestic home run to right field is Fielder's calling card, but simple RBI singles to center have loomed large in the Tigers' last two games.
The series finale was particularly enjoyable for Fielder, who had a rare stolen base in the fourth and got up clapping his hands.
"Just having fun," Fielder said. "Every day, we have a chance to win. It's a really great opportunity."
The Tigers, 9-3, received a six-inning start from Max Scherzer, who saw his teammates get him a win by scoring two in the seventh. Scherzer surrendered a two-run homer to Alcides Escobar and the Royals had a 3-2 lead when Detroit came through with the winning rally.
After Gerald Laird opened the seventh with a single, the next two Tigers were retired. But Cabrera singled to right-center, setting up a first-and-third situation. A wild pitch by reliever Jose Mijares allowed Laird to score and then Fielder drove home the winner.
Joaquin Benoit got out of an eighth-inning jam and Jose Valverde earned his third save.
Scherzer showed poise on the mound in the fifth when he caught Alex Gordon breaking early for third as the Royals tried to pad a 3-2 lead. With two on and one out, the Royals went for the double steal but came up empty as Scherzer held the ball rather than make a standard delivery to the plate.
"I had kind of been in a rhythm going to the plate," Scherzer said. "I was able to catch him when he was stealing and that turned out to be a big play. It kept them at bay at that point in the game."
Tigers manager Jim Leyland thinks the Royals are a much better club than their record indicates. Kansas City, 3-9, has dropped seven in a row.
"I'm glad we're getting out of here, because this club is about ready to break loose," Leyland said.
After Detroit pulled ahead in the seventh, Scherzer hit Humberto Quintero and Quintero threw his bat down at the feet of Laird. When the Detroit catcher voiced his objection, both dugouts emptied and players from the bullpen ran toward the plate.
It turned out to be much ado about nothing.
"I just don't like the bat thrown at my toes or my feet," Laird said. "It's over with. It's left there."
Said Quintero: "We both apologized. I think it's my fault because I threw the bat too close to him."
For the second night in a row, Detroit's bullpen was outstanding. Phil Coke came on after Scherzer hit Quintero and quickly retired three consecutive batters.
"That's what big league pitchers do," said Leyland, noting that Coke hadn't worked in six days. "A big league pitcher has to be able to sit down there for five or six days and then come out and throw strikes. I know it's not easy."
The Tigers are headed home to face the Rangers after a road trip that started shakily in Chicago, but ended with Detroit winning the last four.
"We had a little hiccup in Chicago, but we came on and made it a pretty good road trip," Fielder said. "We want to get home now and keep the momentum going."
Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.