Like many of the Detroit Tigers, Alan Trammell played sensationally early this season. And, like many other Tigers, he was less than sensational once Detroit had run away with the American League East.

But tonight he looked like the .400 hitter he was during the first two months of the season.

"He just hits us, gives us a lot of trouble," said the Royals' manager, Dick Howser, after the Tigers' 8-1 romp. "His hitting .420 against us during the season was no fluke."

Tonight, Trammell hit the ball hard every time. In the first inning, he tripled to the left field wall to drive in the first run of the game. In the third, he walked. In the fifth, he homered deep into the left field bleachers for a 4-0 lead. In the seventh, he singled to right to drive in his third run. Finally, in the eighth, he walked again.

"I didn't even know I had a chance for the cycle until Darrell Evans came up to me in the dugout afterward and told me," he said. "I guess I was in kind of a daze out there. I just wanted to hit the ball hard, make contact every time I was up there. That's the way I'm successful."

After his flying start, many people predicted he would win the MVP Award. But tendinitis in his shoulder forced him to miss 43 games at shortstop -- although he was the Tigers' designated hitter in some of them -- and his statistics: .314 batting average, 14 home runs and 69 RBI, were good, but not overwhelming.

His shoulder is still sore and tonight some of his throws sailed. "He won't be 100 percent the rest of the season," Manager Sparky Anderson said. "But you aren't going to keep him out of the lineup now. No way."

For his career, he is hitting .332 against Kansas City. In this Astro-Turf ballpark he was 15 for 28 this year as the Tigers swept six games.

"I'm a contact hitter," he said. "If you hit the ball hard, the ball finds more holes on AstroTurf. I've always been very confident hitting here. Getting that first hit in the first inning helped me a lot."

It helped his team a lot too. With a lead, Jack Morris was in command all the way. "Alan is just one of those guys who gets it done when you need to get it done," said outfielder Kirk Gibson of the Tigers. "Tonight was a perfect example."

"Whitaker and Trammell are the keys for them, no doubt," Howser said. "The whole lineup is strong but you don't beat them if those two guys get on."

Tonight, Trammell and Whitaker, his partner at second base since he arrived in Detroit, were on base seven times in 10 trips.

"Tonight, we were the better team," Trammell said. "But tomorrow, we start out 0-0 again."