KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The margin was razor thin, but it was enough, as the Detroit Tigers slipped past the Kansas City Royals 2-1 in front of 31,581 on an 88-degree Friday night at Kauffman Stadium.

The Tigers moved 6 1/2 games in front of the Royals in the American League Central.

One night after pounding out a season-high 16 runs, the Tigers gave Anibal Sanchez just two runs, but that was one more than Sanchez and two relievers allowed Kansas City.

"I tried to go right after them with strikes," Sanchez said. "They're pretty good. I didn't want to allow any rallies. So I threw a lot of breaking balls early in the count and they were swinging at them."

Sanchez (6-3) gave up one run on eight hits through seven innings. He did not allow a runner past second base after the first inning until the seventh inning.

"We haven't played in a whole lot of weather like this," said Detroit bench coach Gene Lamont, who filled in for manager Brad Ausmus from the second inning on after Ausmus left the dugout with flu-like symptoms. "That might have had something to do with (Sanchez) only being able to go seven innings.

"I don't think he's as good as he's going to be, but he was good tonight. He's dominant against a lot of teams. He led the league in ERA last year."

Kansas City manager Ned Yost agreed.

"He's a good pitcher," he said. "He changes speeds. He keeps the ball down (and) has a good changeup and a good slider. He commands the baseball."

Danny Duffy (5-9) was the hard-luck loser for Kansas City. He entered the game with a 2.86 ERA, which would have tied for eighth in the American League if he had pitched enough innings. He gave up two runs (one earned) on five hits in six-plus innings Friday.

"I battled," Duffy said after the game. "I kind of fought myself there in the first."

Joe Nathan survived a shaky ninth to pick up his 19th save in 24 chances. It was his 43rd career save against Kansas City, the most against any team.

The game was a dramatic change from the previous night, when the team combined for 20 runs.

"That's called baseball," said Tigers reliever Joba Chamberlain, who gave up two hits but no runs in the eighth. "It's the way each day changes. You're going to win games big, and you're going to need to win games 2-1. We've got to continue to grind. We've got two more games to finish this series the right way, and we've had a good start to the series."

The Tigers have taken the first two games of a four-game series between the top two teams in the American League Central. The Tigers are 5-0 in Kansas City this season. The Royals will count on ace James Shields Saturday to reverse the trend.

The Royals had opportunities throughout the game as they had at least one hit in every inning. In the eighth, left fielder Nori Aoki led off with a single. First baseman Eric Hosmer followed with a single -- his third hit -- moving Aoki to second. But catcher Salvador Perez and designated hitter Billy Butler flew out to center to end the threat.

In the ninth, the Royals had runners on first and second with one out, but shortstop Alcides Escobar struck out swinging and Aoki grounded out to first to end the game.

"We had like five plays that could have gone either way," Yost said. "If we could've (gotten) just a little break."

The Tigers got a run quickly against Duffy. Center fielder Austin Jackson led off with a shot to left-center for a double. Second baseman Ian Kinsler followed with an RBI single.

The Royals tied the game in the bottom of the first. With two outs, Hosmer legged out a double. The hit extended Hosmer's hitting streak to 11 games, which matches his career high. Perez then looped a single to center, driving in Hosmer.

Detroit got an unearned run in the third. Davis led off with a single following an 11-pitch at-bat. He went to second on a single by Jackson. Both runners advanced when Duffy tried to pick off Davis at second and threw the ball into center. First baseman Miguel Cabrera drove home left fielder Rajai Davis with a sacrifice fly to right.

NOTES: DH Victor Martinez was out of the lineup for the sixth straight game with irritation in his sore back. He left the game against Tampa Bay on July 4. There was no update of his condition before Friday's game, but he was replaced on the All-Star roster by Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler. ... The Royals recalled OF Nori Aoki from his minor-league rehab assignment with Double-A Northwest Arkansas and activated him from the 15-day disabled list. He was placed on the DL June 21 with a left groin strain. The Royals made room for him on the active roster by optioning INF Christian Colon to Triple-A Omaha. Colon was 4-for-12 in limited action. He had two doubles and a triple among his four hits. ... Thursday night was the first time in club history that at least six Tigers had multiple hits and multiple RBIs in the same game. The Tigers banged out a season-best 16 runs and had 19 hits. All 11 Tigers who batted scored at least one run and had one hit.