KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Long before Jim Leyland became a big league manager, and well before Miguel Cabrera was even born, the Tigers' skipper hit .222 during an often-ugly minor-league playing career.
He knows better than to tell Cabrera how to hit.
Instead, Leyland has preached patience with his slugging third baseman, and it paid off in fine fashion Tuesday night. Cabrera had a pair of hits against the Kansas City Royals, including the go-ahead single in the eighth inning that helped deliver a 3-1 victory.
"I'm not going to talk to him about hitting," Leyland said. "He knows twice as much about hitting as I do. He'll be just fine."
Cabrera was 0 for 22 before his single in the third inning, but it was his RBI single off reliever Greg Holland in the eighth that proved most important. It came on the heels of singles by Andy Dirks and Brennan Boesch, and snapped a 1-all tie.
"Cabrera's going to hit," Leyland said. "The guy is a .330 major league hitter."
Prince Fielder added an RBI single later in the eighth to make things a bit more comfortable for Octavio Dotel (1-0), who took over for starter Drew Smyly and threw a scoreless seventh.
Joaquin Benoit pitched around a two-out triple by Jeff Francoeur in the eighth, and Jose Valverde took care of the ninth for his second save in three tries.
"They've done a tremendous job," Smyly said of the bullpen. "Anytime they come in, you know they're going to keep the lead."
Bruce Chen (0-1) took the tough-luck loss despite pitching into the eighth for Kansas City, which is mired in a six-game losing streak and has yet to win at home this season.
Billy Butler had three hits and Alex Gordon drove in the Royals' only run.
Chen had retired 13 straight before giving up a single to Dirks, just the sixth hit he'd allowed all night. But he was responsible for the go-ahead run when Holland allowed three straight base hits, and was tagged with the loss despite recording seven strikeouts without a walk.
"Bruce pitched great, did a great job of keeping them off balance," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "He pitched us into the eighth inning, which I think is the first time all year that's been done for us. He did a fantastic job."
Smyly made another impressive start for the Tigers, allowing only an unearned run on seven hits over six innings. He struck out four and his lone walk was intentional.
The 22-year-old left-hander, who made a solid big league debut against Tampa Bay last week, even had his personal cheering section in Kansas City. Several family members and friends made a seven-hour drive from his hometown of Little Rock, Ark., while others made a four-hour trek from Fayetteville, where he pitched three years for the University of Arkansas.
With an announced crowd of 13,851, the Smyly supporters sounded as if they owned the park.
Detroit gave them reason to cheer in the second inning, when Delmon Young singled leading off and Ryan Raburn snapped a 0-for-22 skid with a double. Ramon Santiago followed with a sacrifice fly to right field to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
It wasn't always easy for Smyly, who put at least one runner aboard every inning. But the only time Kansas City managed to get someone home was in the third, when Alcides Escobar lined a hard shot that hit Smyly right between the shoulder blades and bounced toward first base.
Smyly tracked the ball down but threw it away, the error sending Escobar to second. Detroit trainers and manager Jim Leyland came out to check on Smyly, who shrugged his shoulders and tried to stretch out. He threw a half dozen warm-up pitches and remained in the game.
Gordon followed with a single up the middle that tied the score.
"It could have been worse. It got me in a good spot," Smyly said, though he admitted that his back was tightening up after the game. "Got me clean around the muscle. It stung a little bit."
Everything seems to be stinging for the Royals.
They haven't won since taking the middle game of a three-game set at Oakland exactly a week ago, a miserable stretch in which they lost one game on back-to-back hit batters and another after they rallied from seven runs down to force extra innings.
"You can't panic, especially with young kids," Yost said. "I've told these kids, 'You're going to go through periods like this.' Every club does. I don't want to make too big of a deal about it, but this is kind of a character-building time, too, to learn how to deal with this, how to punch your way out of it, how to almost relax your way out of it."
Notes: LHP Jonathan Sanchez will start the series finale for Kansas City in place of RHP Luke Hochevar, who will go Friday against Toronto. Manager Ned Yost wanted to give Hochevar an extra day to recover from a bruised ankle. RHP Max Scherzer will pitch Wednesday for Detroit.