The Kansas City Royals are in an unfamiliar position atop the AL Central and hope to make a big statement against the two-time defending division champions.
That may be difficult in a place that has given them fits lately, though the Detroit Tigers do enter this season series opener in a big funk.
Kansas City (10-7), which hasn't won a division title since 1985, had dropped four of six before coming through with a doubleheader sweep in Boston on Sunday. Following a 4-2 victory in the opener, Billy Butler hit a game-tying homer in the eighth inning and Lorenzo Cain walked with the bases loaded in the 10th in a 5-4 win in the second game.
"I thought we had great at-bats in crucial situations," manager Ned Yost said.
His team didn't have many good at-bats in losing its final seven games at Comerica Park last season, hitting .216 with seven walks and 67 strikeouts. Kansas City has lost 12 of 15 in Detroit and now looks to avoid its longest losing streak there since dropping 14 straight between 1987 and 1990.
The Tigers went 13-5 against the Royals last season but enter this three-game set having lost four straight. They've scored six runs in 54 innings over their last five games while batting .191, having suffered a three-game sweep to the Los Angeles Angels over the weekend.
"We have no excuses," said Torii Hunter , who was hitting .418 before going 1 for 7 in the last two games. "We have a day off Monday, so we'll kick back, watch some basketball and come back Tuesday ready to go."
Hunter is 3 for 7 with two doubles against Davis (2-0, 2.25), but the right-hander enters this matchup having thrown 12 scoreless innings over his last two outings while striking out 13.
Scherzer (1-0, 2.84) also is coming off a pair of impressive starts, with 23 strikeouts over 14 innings as he limited Oakland and Seattle to two earned runs.
Scherzer, 12-2 with a 2.58 ERA in his last 23 starts - including the 2012 playoffs, went 2-0 in three starts against the Royals last season as he gave up four runs over 17 innings.
Davis, on the other hand, allowed three runs in 4 1-3 innings of relief versus the Tigers (9-9) last year while with Tampa Bay. In his only career start at Detroit, Davis surrendered home runs to Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila while giving up five runs over six innings in a 7-6 loss in 2011.
Cabrera and Avila are a combined 4 for 17 against Davis, but each hit was a homer.
|Kansas City Royals|
|March 31, 2013||Danny Duffy||15-Day DL||Recovery from left elbow surgery|
|February 12, 2013||Felipe Paulino||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|April 21, 2013||Octavio Dotel||Day-to-Day||Elbow inflammation|
|April 09, 2013||Victor Martinez||Day-to-Day||Lacerated right thumb|
|March 22, 2013||Avisail Garcia||15-Day DL||Bruised right heel|
DETROIT (AP) -- Now the series between the Royals and Tigers takes on a new level of intrigue.
Wade Davis against Max Scherzer on Wednesday. James Shields against Justin Verlander on Thursday.
Those pitching matchups came about because Kansas City and Detroit were rained out Tuesday night. That was supposed to be the opener of a three-game series between the up-and-coming Royals and the defending AL Central champions from Detroit.
There was no makeup date announced, so the teams will instead play only two games this week. Both bumped their Tuesday starters to Wednesday - Davis for Kansas City and Scherzer for Detroit. The Royals will then skip Luis Mendoza in the rotation, leaving Shields to pitch Thursday. Verlander will take the mound that day, too, after originally being scheduled for Wednesday.
The rainout gave Kansas City its fifth day off in nine days. The Royals had a game at Boston on Friday postponed because of the manhunt for a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings.
The Royals also had a scheduled day off Monday, and then the postponement in Detroit.
"It feels almost like getting at-bats for the first time in spring again," Kansas City designated hitter Billy Butler said. "Except these ones count. I'm sure in their own respect it's affecting the pitchers, too."
Butler homered Sunday in the second game of a doubleheader against Boston - and the Royals haven't played since.
"The more at-bats you get, the more comfortable you are, and we're not getting them at all," he said.
Kansas City is 10-7 and hoping to unseat the Tigers atop the division. The Royals sent prospect Wil Myers to Tampa Bay in the offseason, acquiring Shields and Davis from the Rays. So far, Shields is 1-2 with a 3.00 ERA, and Davis is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA.
"Our pitching's been much improved, our defense has been very, very solid," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "Offensively, we still haven't hit our stride, but are scoring enough runs to win ballgames. I like our energy."
Davis' performance is particularly encouraging for the Royals. He is making the transition back to being a starter after pitching in relief last year for Tampa Bay.
"I've been very impressed," Yost said. "That's why we got him - because we knew he'd be able to do that."
Detroit has lost four straight, falling to 9-9. Yost didn't want to put too much emphasis on this early series.
"We just came off a big series in Boston, one of the hottest teams in baseball," he said. "We played the Atlanta Braves , one of the hottest teams in baseball - stopped streaks on both of those teams. I think we've got enough confidence in ourselves. We come in feeling good.
"We know it's a long year. We know we've got a lot of games, but we've got confidence in each other. Offense has confidence in the pitching, the pitching has confidence in the defense and the offense. It's just a good combination."