KANSAS CITY -- Let's see if we have this straight. The Royals had a surgeon pitching, a guy with winged feet in center field and the Bermuda Triangle working for them.
At least that was manager Ned Yost's take after his Royals and Bruce Chen knocked off the Detroit Tigers, 1-0, on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Chen pitched eight innings and Greg Holland, with a huge assist from Jarrod Dyson, wrapped up the shutout victory -- the Royals' second straight win over the American League Central title aspirants. But the Tigers slipped to three games behind the first-place Chicago White Sox.
Chen earned his 10th victory, reaching double-digit wins for the third straight season, by holding the Tigers to four hits. He walked one, struck out four and pitched his best game of the year.
"He was surgical with his stuff today," Yost said. "I mean, he was sharp."
That was evident early when, after Austin Jackson opened the game with a double and advanced on a ground-out, Chen struck out Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.
"Those are very good hitters, they can smell an RBI and I just made good pitches," Chen said. "I think me and Brayan [Pena] had a very good game plan against those two guys and we executed it very well."
Getting help from third baseman Mike Moustakas, who started two double plays, Chen wasn't threatened again until the seventh when Cabrera doubled and Delmon Young was hit by a pitch. But, with runners at the corners, Chen pitched out of it.
"Well, he was awful good," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. "He made it look pretty easy, to be honest with you. ... He's not overpowering, as anybody can see. You look at the radar gun, he's one of those guys that doesn't impress you, but he's really a good pitcher. He knows how to pitch, knows what he's doing, he never gives in."
Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez was giving the Royals fits at the same time. They scored their only run in the fourth inning. Moustakas doubled to right, advanced to third on the second out, and up came Eric Hosmer.
"Sanchez was as equally effective as Bruce was," Yost said. "We won the game on an 80-foot bomb in the Bermuda Triangle there right over the pitcher's head. That just shows you how good both pitchers were."
Hosmer hit a little looper off the handle of his bat that carried over Sanchez and fell in front of charging shortstop Jhonny Peralta.
"I knew it was over the pitcher's head," Hosmer said. "My big concern was Peralta coming in and making that do-or-die play. When I saw that, my eyes just lit up and I tried to get to first base as soon as possible."
Hosmer dove into first base safely and the Tigers couldn't even get off a throw. Moustakas was home with the game's only run.
"The ball must not have been carrying out toward center tonight," Moustakas said, tongue in cheek. "That's a line drive in the books."
Protecting that one-run lead turned into quite a project. Yost was asked if he considered sending Chen out to pitch the ninth inning.
"Noooooo," Yost said. "We had 2-3-4 coming up, he had done his job and if one guy gets on, I have to go get him, because I'm not going to allow him to lose the game in that situation. And, in case you haven't noticed, our bullpen is one of the best in the American League. So if you get a starter that gives you eight strong innings like he does, I'll turn it over to the bullpen every time."
In came Holland and Andy Dirks promptly drilled a single past his feet into center field. Then Cabrera launched a sizzling line drive toward the left-center field gap. Here came Dyson.
"You've got to go hard right there -- game on the line," Dyson said. "I felt like if I didn't make the play I could at least knock it down. So I didn't want to take any chances and play it off the hop. I wanted to make the play."
And he did, skidding along the grass and making the grab to Yost's enormous relief.
"When it left Cabrera's bat, I thought, 'Oh, my gosh, we're in trouble.' Then I looked at Dice and I thought, 'Oh, man, there's no way he's going to get to that,'" Yost said. "Then them little wings that he's got on his ankles kicked in, and I don't know how he got to that ball but he closed ground like a mad man and made a tremendous play."
Wings on his ankles?
"I mean, sometimes I fly a little bit," Dyson said, laughing.
What the catch meant for Holland was there weren't two runners on base and none out when Fielder came to the plate. As it was, Fielder singled Dirks to second so Holland was still in a tough spot.
But Holland ended the game by striking out both Young and Peralta for his ninth save since becoming the closer this month.
One run held up.
"Bruce threw the ball incredible for us tonight against that kind of offense," Moustakas said. "So when you've got a guy doing that on the mound, one run's good enough."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.