DETROIT – Ten years later, Edwin Jackson still loves Detroit and Comerica Park.
Friday night, the feeling was mutual.
Jackson pitched neatly into the seventh inning in his return to Detroit, overcoming an inside-the-park home run and leading the Tigers to a 5-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals.
Jackson (2-5) spent the 2009 season with the Tigers, going 13-9 with a 3.62 ERA and playing in his only All-Star Game. Ten years later, he was just as good, allowing one run and four hits in 6 1/3 innings.
"Ever since 2009, Detroit has felt like home to me," he said. "I loved that year and I've always looked forward to coming back, no matter who I was with. Tonight, though, was really special."
The Tigers, who topped Kansas City a day earlier, posted back-to-back wins at home for the first time since they swept the Royals in their first home series of the season. Detroit, which has the worst record in the majors, hadn't won two straight anywhere since a three-game winning streak in Baltimore and Atlanta from May 28-31.
Jackson, who has pitched for a major league-record 14 teams, began this season on a minor league deal with Oakland before being purchased by the Blue Jays in May.
The 35-year-old right-hander made eight appearances for Toronto, including five starts, but was released in July with a 11.12 ERA. He signed with the Tigers and made two starts in Triple-A before being called up Thursday.
"Edwin has seen a lot of things and been a lot of places, and he still appreciates every moment he gets in the big leagues," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He was fantastic."
Whit Merrifield led off the game with his second career inside-the-park homer. His line drive evaded the leap of center fielder Victor Reyes and bounced hard off the wall. As Reyes and fellow outfielders Harold Castro and Travis Demeritte chased down the ball, Merrifield circled the bases and scored easily.
"I saw it hit off the wall, but I wasn't sure how far it kicked," Merrifield said. "I was just running and I saw (third base coach Mike Jirschele) waving me home. I knew it must have gone pretty far for him to wave me in as the first batter of the game."
Tigers reliever John Schreiber, who grew up 25 miles south of Comerica Park, made his major league debut in the ninth. The first hitter he faced, Jorge Soler, homered on a 3-1 pitch, and he allowed two more hits while getting two outs.
"I felt bad about having to take him out, but he still had the biggest smile you'll ever see," Gardenhire said. "That's special."
Joe Jimenez retired Nicky Lopez for his first save. He took over as closer when All-Star closer Shane Greene was traded to Atlanta.
"Whit got us off to a great start, but we didn't add on any more runs until the ninth inning," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We got something going in the ninth, but we couldn't get enough."
Kansas City right-hander Brad Keller (7-12) allowed five runs and 10 hits in six innings.
"I didn't have my best command so I was just trying to grind through the game," Keller said.
Dawel Lugo's two-run single gave the Tigers the lead in the bottom of the first, and the game stayed 2-1 until the fifth.
Niko Goodrum led off the fifth with a triple to right-center and scored on Miguel Cabrera's single through a drawn-in infield.
Jake Rogers hit his third career homer to make it 4-1 in the sixth, and Jordy Mercer scored later in the inning on a wild pitch.
The Tigers have nine wins against the Royals this season, more than a quarter of their season total of 35.
Tigers CF JaCoby Jones missed the game after being hit in the left wrist by a pitch on Thursday, but is not expected to go on the injured list. ... The Tigers activated 2B Josh Harrison (hamstring) from the 60-day disabled list and gave him his unconditional release.
The Royals optioned right-hander Kyle Zimmer to Triple-A Omaha, a day after he allowed two runs in 1 1/3 innings of relief, including a bases-loaded walk. Kansas City recalled lefty Eric Skoglund from Omaha.
Merrifield's inside-the-park homer was the second Tigers start in a row that Jackson had allowed a home run to the game's first batter. In his final start of 2009, on Oct. 2, Scott Podsednik hit a leadoff homer in an 8-0 win for the Chicago White Sox.
"I'll take your word for that," Jackson said with a laugh. "I've given up a lot of those over the years."
The teams play the third of four games on Saturday, with Kansas City's Mike Montgomery (1-5, 6.02 ERA) facing Spencer Turnbull (3-9, 3.72 ERA).