Most of the time, against most teams, these games belong to James Shields.

Friday night at Kauffman Stadium, Shields, the Royals ace with Tony Award-level talent, stepped aside and left center stage to another man: Rick Porcello, who draws his paychecks from the Tigers.

Porcello, whose name is constantly followed by the phrase “who is only 25,” befuddled the Royals with seven innings of four-hit pitching that ruined Kansas City’s plans for teaching the first-place Tigers a lesson in the opener of three-game weekend standoff.

“You’ve got to remember this guy’s still pretty young,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who watched Porcello — and a stream of Tigers hitters — bully Shields and the Royals. “I think he’s still learning myself.”

So, too, are the Royals learning that moving from contender to commander in the Central Division is tough against a team that has blended youth on the level of Porcello with master craftsmen as seasoned and skilled as Victor Martinez.

Martinez had three hits, two of them doubles, and drove in two runs to push his average to .315. J.D. Martinez, who started in left field, had two doubles and two RBIs, while Alex Avila returned to the lineup after a five-day injury layoff and slammed a long, two-run homer over the right-center field wall.

It was part of a 12-hit ambush of Shields, worth eight runs, in a shift that lasted only 61⁄3 innings.

“When we gave outs, we gave hard outs,” said Martinez, who might as well have been referring to Miguel Cabrera, who had an RBI double and hit the ball hard and far three additional times.

“He swung the bat well tonight,” said Ausmus, who was particularly impressed by Cabrera’s rocket to deep center field in the eighth that was caught by Jarrod Dyson.

“If he hits that an eighth of an inch down on the bat,” Ausmus said, “it probably goes 460 feet.”

Rather than move to within a game of the Tigers, the Royals were flattened by a Tigers team that now owns the Central Division’s only plus-.500 record. Detroit is 15-9 and has a three-game lead on second-place Kansas City.

The Tigers were so dominant it was almost forgotten that they trailed, 1-0, until back-to-back doubles by Cabrera and Martinez in the third put Detroit ahead, 2-1. It got steadily darker for Shields and the Royals in the fourth when Avila’s homer, on a Shields fastball, over the right-center field wall, made it 4-1.

Porcello placed that lead in his safety deposit box. Not that he needed much of a margin the way he was twirling four pitches.