Kansas City, Mo. — The Royals don't seem so much like the Tigers' little brothers any more.
Even though the Royals are the defending American League champs, the Tigers still battered them around a fair bit last season (100-66, winning 13 of 19 games).
That was then, this is now.
The Royals threw all the punches (figuratively) Thursday, pummeling starter Alfredo Simon and drawing first blood in this four-game Central Division series – 8-1.
"This is a new season," manager Brad Ausmus said before the game. "I don't put much stock in what happened last year. ... Plus I am sure they have some confidence that's been built into their DNA from going to the World Series last year."
It sure looked like it.
"You could see it in the way they take the field, the way they swing the bats, they all have a lot of confidence," catcher James McCann said. "And rightly so. They had a World Series run last year. You expect a team like that to come into this year with that type of confidence."
The Royals chased Simon in the fifth inning – and they weren't hitting cheapies.
"In my situation, I was behind in the count and I just tried to throw strikes and they were up," said Simon, now 4-1. "And they put good swings on it."
A ringing double by Mike Moustakas got the scoring started in the third. That was followed by a 421-foot home run to the berm in center field by Eric Hosmer.
Back-to-back wall-shot doubles by Kendrys Morales and Salvador Perez sent Simon to the showers with one out in the fifth.
"My splitter for a couple of innings didn't work real good," Simon said. "They took advantage."
Simon, too, could sense the Royals' teeming confidence.
"Those guys are good hitters and they are really hot right now," he said. "When you get behind in the count, they are going to put good swings on the ball."
Alex Wilson came on and the Royals kept hitting. When the fifth mercifully ended, the Royals batted around, scoring five runs.
"They have a very athletic lineup," McCann said. "Up and down their order, they can all run a little bit, they can swing for average and for power. It's a tough lineup to pitch to."
Simon was charged with six runs and nine hits in 4.1 innings. Even though relievers Al Alburquerque and Angel Nesbitt quieted the Royals in the later innings, they still banged out 14 hits.
The Tigers, meanwhile, didn't do much counterpunching against Royals left-hander Danny Duffy -- five singles scattered across seven innings.
"He was very good," Ausmus said afterward. "He threw his fastball for strikes (consistently in the mid-90s and touching 97 mph) and mixed in the change-up and breaking ball. He was around the strike zone the entire night."
The Tigers got runners to second base in the first, fourth, sixth and eighth. J.D. Martinez was 0-for-4 in that scenario with three strikeouts.
The Tigers avoided their first shutout of the season in the eighth when Jose Iglesias tripled and Rajai Davis singled him home.
It's on the Tigers now to answer back and maybe put a chink into that coat of armor the Royals seem to wearing right now.
"I am not worried about this club," Ausmus said of the Tigers. "They will come in ready to play to win tomorrow. I am not concerned at all."