Maybe the Detroit Tigers have to worry more about a team further down in the division standings after sweeping the club that is right behind them.
The Tigers have won four straight heading into Monday night's road matchup with a Kansas City Royals team seeking its first six-game win streak in two seasons.
Detroit (35-26) extended its lead in the AL Central to a season-high 5 1/2 games after sweeping Cleveland at home over the weekend. All three Tigers starters won as they posted a 2.37 ERA.
Kansas City (28-32), meanwhile, has turned in a 1.00 ERA during this five-game run. The Royals haven't gained much ground and are 6 1/2 games behind Detroit.
This surge for Kansas City began when Jeremy Guthrie (6-3, 3.66 ERA) ended a four-start winless stretch by giving up one run over six innings in Wednesday's 4-1 victory over Minnesota.
The right-hander improved to 4-1 with a 2.78 ERA in five starts at home - where he is limiting hitters to a .205 average.
Cabrera is a .366 hitter at Kansas City, where he batted .417 in nine games last year.
Guthrie will be backed by a bullpen that has not allowed a run in 17 2-3 innings in the Royals' past six games.
Kansas City was locked in a scoreless affair Sunday against Houston before scoring twice in the eighth inning for a 2-0 victory. Manager Ned Yost felt his relievers would give his club every chance to break through after Luis Mendoza departed after seven innings.
"I'm fully stocked," Yost said. "It doesn't matter how long this game goes, I've got enough pitching to wait it out."
The Tigers and Royals split two games in Detroit from April 24-25 in their lone previous 2013 series, with Kansas City's bullpen tossing 6 1-3 scoreless innings.
Although the Tigers are second in the majors with 5.2 runs per game, they have had trouble scoring with Doug Fister (5-3, 3.27) on the mound. Detroit has no runs over Fister's last 16 1-3 innings.
He will start the opener of this three-game set after taking a shutout into the ninth inning Wednesday before surrendering all three runs in a 3-0 defeat to Tampa Bay.
"There always seems to be one guy who takes the brunt of these stretches - we go a bunch of games where we can't get him any runs - and Doug is getting that right now," catcher Alex Avila said.
The right-hander is 2-3 with a 3.97 ERA in seven starts against the Royals.
Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar , hitting .191 over his past 32 games, was given Sunday off after playing in the first 59 games.
|June 08, 2013||Anibal Sanchez||Day-to-Day||Right shoulder stiffness|
|May 12, 2013||Austin Jackson||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|April 26, 2013||Phil Coke||15-Day DL||Left groin strain|
|April 26, 2013||Phil Coke||15-Day DL||Left groin strain|
|April 21, 2013||Octavio Dotel||Day-to-Day||Elbow inflammation|
|April 20, 2013||Octavio Dotel||60-Day DL||Right elbow inflammation|
|Kansas City Royals|
|May 16, 2013||Jarrod Dyson||15-Day DL||Right ankle sprain|
|March 31, 2013||Danny Duffy||60-Day DL||Recovery from left elbow surgery|
|February 12, 2013||Felipe Paulino||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Usually reserved on the mound, Aaron Crow let loose after striking out Miguel Cabrera to end the seventh with two runners on base.
Jeremy Guthrie pitched impressively into the seventh inning, Salvador Perez hit a two-run triple and the Kansas City Royals beat the Detroit Tigers 3-2 Monday night for their sixth straight victory.
"Aaron's facing the best hitter to walk on this planet," Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "The way he came in and showed no fear, went right after him with the crowd standing up on every pitch. That's a big moment right there. Crow is usually not a big fan of showing emotion right there, but he got fired up. It just fires up the whole team at that point."
Guthrie (7-3) limited the Tigers to a two-run homer by Cabrera in 6 1-3 innings in helping the Royals to extend their longest winning streak since they won seven straight in September 2011. He gave up six hits and walked three.
Crow replaced Guthrie after he gave up a single to Avisail Garcia and he hit Andy Dirks with an 0-2 pitch. Crow retired Torii Hunter on a fly to shallow right and struck out Cabrera swinging to end the threat.
"The slider was probably the best pitch I've thrown all year," Crow said of the pitch he used to strike out Cabrera. "I haven't thrown that many good ones. That's what we're paid to do. It's a situation you don't want to be in."
The Tigers managed just one two-out single off four Kansas City relievers after Guthrie exited with Crow logging the biggest two outs.
"The bullpen was huge for us," Guthrie said. "They won the game for us."
Cabrera, who tops the American League with 90 hits and 69 RBIs, hit his 18th home run in the second after Hunter doubled.
"I made a bad mistake and he didn't miss it," Guthrie said of hanging a breaking ball.
Perez's one-out triple in the third by diving center fielder Garcia scored Alcides Escobar and Hosmer after they each singled. Lorenzo Cain 's two-out infield single scored Perez with the go-ahead run.
"Garcia gave a good effort and missed," Hunter said. "I chased it down. As an ex-center fielder, I know, if you see me coming, you get out of the way. That's his ball if he wants it. I've got to get out of the way. On that ball, a right-handed batter, the ball fades back to right field. It's probably coming back towards me. He probably should have let it go. He played it aggressively and that's all right. He's 21. He'll learn. He's 6-5, 250. I'm getting out of his way."
Doug Fister (5-4), who is 0-3 in five starts since a victory May 14 over Houston, went the distance. He allowed three runs on nine hits.
"They're patient," Fister said. "When they needed to they produced what they needed. They put two runs on the board for me and I didn't make it stand up."
Greg Holland worked a flawless ninth for his 13th save in 15 opportunities.
"Just a phenomenal job of pitching on our part," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
The Royals are 7-2 in June after losing 20 of 28 games in May. The pitching staff has a 1.44 ERA in June.
The Royals improved to 8-3 since George Brett was named the interim hitting coach on May 30.
NOTES: Tigers CF Austin Jackson , who went on the disabled list May 12 with a left hamstring pull, began an injury rehab assignment Monday with Triple-A Toledo. He went 0-for-5, struck out three times and walked once at Rochester. ... Royals LHP Danny Duffy , who had Tommy John surgery last June, made a rehab start Monday for Triple-A Omaha, giving up seven runs on seven hits, two walks and a hit batter in 2 1-3 innings, throwing 58 pitches at Nashville. ... The Royals signed Stephen F. Austin SS Hunter Dozier, the eighth overall pick in the draft, to a $2.2 million signing bonus, which is $937,800 under the allotted slot bonus. ... RHP Anibal Sanchez , who missed a start Sunday with shoulder stiffness, will probably make his next start. "I think so," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. ... The Tigers recalled RHP Evan Reed from Triple-A Toledo, where he was 1-1 with a 2.53 ERA in 21 outings.