Looking to continue their season-long success against Justin Verlander , the surging Royals try for a third consecutive victory overall and against the Tigers on Friday night at Comerica Park.
Kansas City (77-69) has not been to the playoffs since winning the 1985 World Series, but it's won 13 of 18 and is firmly entrenched in the wild-card race.
"We're playing good baseball right now," James Shields told the Royals' official website after he pitched eight strong innings in a 6-2 win at Cleveland on Wednesday. "We've got a lot of character and heart on this team. We're going to try to be in it until the end."
Kansas City has shown its mettle by going 9-7 this season against Detroit (84-62), which it trails by seven games in the Central. The Royals have lost two straight at Comerica, but did take two of three from the Tigers at home last weekend.
They had four runs and eight hits in seven innings off Verlander (12-11, 3.64 ERA) during a 4-3 win Saturday. The right-hander was 15-2 with a 2.73 ERA in 23 starts against Kansas City prior to this season, but he's lost each of his last three starts versus the Royals with a 4.79 ERA.
Detroit has dropped all of Verlander's five starts in the season series, though he pitched at least seven innings and gave up two or fewer runs in three of them."Obviously they have a good team," he said.
The Tigers have lost Verlander's last six outings overall, during which he's 0-3 with a 4.17 ERA.
"I want to build on the positives and I feel like I made progress (the last two starts)," he said. "That doesn't mean I expect to throw a shutout next time."
Eric Hosmer is 6 for 16 with a homer and two doubles versus Verlander this year. He's batting .408 with a home run against Detroit and has 11 RBIs in his last 13 games overall.
Billy Butler went 2 for 11 as Kansas City took two of three from the Indians this week, but he's 7 for 12 with four walks against Verlander in 2013.
The Royals' Bruce Chen (7-2, 2.79) allowed a two-run homer to Jose Iglesias and four other hits in seven innings of a 5-2 win over Detroit on Sunday. He's gone 2-0 with a 2.41 ERA in his last three overall starts.
"He changes speeds and got us out in front a lot," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "You know what you're going to get with him."
The left-hander tries to build on that last outing while hoping for a better performance than his most recent at Comerica, in which he gave up six runs and eight hits in 5 1-3 innings of a 6-3 loss Aug. 18.
In the hunt for a second straight Triple Crown, Miguel Cabrera hit a two-run homer off Chen in the home victory but went hitless against him Sunday.
Cabrera is 3 for his last 23 with no extra-base hits and three RBIs.
The Tigers won their second in a row Wednesday, 1-0 over the Chicago White Sox to conclude a 4-5 road trip.
|Kansas City Royals|
|September 05, 2013||Salvador Perez||Day-to-Day||Concussion|
|September 03, 2013||Noel Arguelles||60-Day DL||Left shoulder|
|August 13, 2013||Mike Moustakas||Day-to-Day||Strained left calf|
|August 11, 2013||Miguel Tejada||60-Day DL||Strained right calf|
|August 09, 2013||Lorenzo Cain||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
|August 09, 2013||Lorenzo Cain||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
|September 04, 2013||Jose Iglesias||Day-to-Day||Bilateral shin splints|
|August 24, 2013||Jose Iglesias||Day-to-Day||Sore left elbow|
|August 17, 2013||Omar Infante||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower back stiffness|
|August 11, 2013||Alex Avila||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|August 11, 2013||Alex Avila||15-Day DL||Concussion|
|July 31, 2013||Miguel Cabrera||Day-to-Day||Strained lower abdomen|
DETROIT (AP) -- Justin Verlander has spent all season trying to recapture the form that made him perhaps the best pitcher in baseball in 2011 and 2012.
Now, with another postseason berth in sight, the Detroit right-hander hopes he's finally turning a corner.
"It seems like the whole year has been tinkering," Verlander said. "I feel like the last three starts, I've found what I really need to be working on and focusing on."
Verlander pitched effectively into the seventh inning and Prince Fielder homered and drove in three runs to lift the Tigers to a 6-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Friday night.
Detroit remained six games ahead of second-place Cleveland in the AL Central and dealt the third-place Royals a setback in the postseason race.
Kansas City is one of several teams hoping at least to catch Tampa Bay for a wild card.
Verlander (13-11) allowed three runs and nine hits in 6 2-3 innings. Three relievers finished. Joaquin Benoit worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth and got the final four outs for his 19th save in 19 chances.
Bruce Chen (7-3) allowed five earned runs and seven hits in 4 1-3 innings.
"They had a really good plan going in. They were hacking early," Chen said. "They prepared themselves really well."
The Royals, who are trying to make the playoffs for the first time since winning the World Series in 1985, fell 3 1/2 games behind the Rays after this series against the leaders in Kansas City's division did not start well.
Kansas City fell behind 6-1 in the fifth, and although the Royals rallied, Detroit's bullpen was able to hold on. With the score 6-3, Detroit's Drew Smyly issued a one-out walk to Eric Hosmer in the eighth, then Jose Veras came on and walked Billy Butler on four pitches. After taking ball one, Salvador Perez popped out, but Veras hit Mike Moustakas to load the bases.
On came Benoit, who has been excellent since becoming Detroit's full-time closer. He struck out David Lough to end the threat.
Kansas City left fielder Alex Gordon overran Austin Jackson 's leadoff double in the Detroit first for an error, allowing Jackson to advance to third. He scored on Torii Hunter 's groundout to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
Kansas City tied it in the fourth on an RBI single by Perez, but Fielder's flyball in the bottom of the inning barely cleared the wall in the right-field corner for a two-run shot. It was his 24th homer of the year.
Like Verlander, Fielder has had his struggles this season, but he now has 102 RBIs, the sixth time in seven years he's reached 100.
"If I'm healthy and can play every day, that's what I'm really focused on," Fielder said. "When you're out there every day, you've got a chance to do all those things."
The tiebreaking home run came after banged-up slugger Miguel Cabrera led off with a double to right-center that Lough just missed making a sliding catch on. It was Cabrera's first extra-base hit since Aug. 26.
Detroit added three runs in the fifth. Hunter hit a two-run single, and after an intentional walk to Cabrera, Hunter caught the Royals napping and broke for third. Chen was called for a balk, giving Hunter third and Cabrera second, and Fielder's RBI single made it 6-1.
Verlander has pitched well in 2013, just not up to the terrific standard he set the previous two years. The Tigers are hoping the right-hander will find a groove late this season, and he was breezing along until the Royals rallied with a couple runs in the sixth. Butler's RBI single made it 6-2, and Perez drove in Butler with a double.
But Verlander was happy overall after striking out seven without a walk.
"I feel like I'm pretty doggone close," said Verlander, whose ERA is at 3.66. "I think my stuff's been a lot better. Tonight I made a little bit of an adjustment with my grip on my curveball and that seemed to be working really well for me."
NOTES: Cabrera has been bothered lately by a strained abdomen, among other nagging injuries. Detroit manager Jim Leyland said before the game his third baseman looks better now. ... The Tigers sent RHP David Paulino to Houston as the player to be named in the deal that brought Veras to Detroit in July. ... Butler went 2 for 3 off Verlander and is now 30 for 68 (.441) off the Detroit star. ... Kansas City's bullpen retired all 11 batters it faced, including seven strikeouts. ... Detroit RHP Doug Fister (12-8) faces Kansas City RHP Ervin Santana (8-9) on Saturday night.