If Sunday was any indication, Runelvys Hernandez’s recovery is complete.
Making his third start following his recovery from elbow injury, Hernandez goes for his career-high fifth win as the Kansas City Royals open a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
Hernandez, who won his first four decisions this season with a 1.10 ERA, pitched 5 2-3 scoreless innings in the Royals’ 7-5, 10-inning victory over visiting Seattle on Sunday. He allowed just four hits, throwing 88 pitches in just his second start after missing two months with right elbow inflammation.
Hernandez didn’t get the decision for the second straight outing, but is clearly getting stronger after throwing 66 pitches over four innings in Kansas City’s 13-3 victory at Texas on July 11.
“I just want to take all my starts the rest of the season and help this team become a champion,” Hernandez said. “We’re all working so hard for that.”
The Royals still own a comfortable lead atop the AL Central despite Thursday’s 6-2 loss at Minnesota, sitting four games ahead of the Chicago White Sox and 5 1/2 in front of the Twins.
“Nobody’s going to give it to us,” manager Tony Pena said of the Royals, who haven’t had a winning season since finishing 64-51 during the strike-shortened 1994 season. “We are in first place with two great ballclubs behind us. They’re going to be there. Nobody’s running away.”
Kansas City boasts a 30-10 record against division opponents, including 8-1 against the Detroit.
The Tigers ended a six-game losing streak with Thursday’s 7-4 victory at Cleveland.
“It’s huge,” Tigers manager Alan Trammell said. “The wins have been few and far between.”
STANDINGS: Royals - 1st place, AL Central. Tigers - 5th place, 28 GB, AL Central.
ROYALS PROBABLE STARTER: Hernandez (4-3, 2.79 ERA). Hernandez is 0-3 in his last five starts despite allowing three runs or fewer in each outing, and is winless since beating Minnesota on April 22. Hernandez is 1-0 with a 3.24 ERA in one career start against Detroit.
TIGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Wilfredo Ledezma (3-3, 4.04 ERA). The Tigers are 2-1 in Ledezma’s starts this season, including Sunday’s 10-1 road loss to the White Sox. The rookie left-hander gave up seven earned runs and 12 hits over 3 2-3 innings. Ledezma, who has been used in relief most of this season, is making his first start against Kansas City. In two games against the Royals, he is 0-0 with a 9.82 ERA.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Royals - Carlos Beltran, .297 avg., and 28 SBs; Beltran and Raul Ibanez, 14 HRs; Ibanez, 60 RBIs and 59 runs. Tigers - Young, .288 avg., 21 HRs, 56 RBIs and 52 runs; Alex Sanchez, 18 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Royals, 8-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Royals - SS Angel Berroa has played 33 consecutive errorless games. … 1B Mike Sweeney, recovering from nerve irritation of the neck and back, said he expects to play in seven to 10 days. … Royals starting pitchers are 5-1 with a 2.10 ERA in their last 11 starts. Tigers - LF Monroe was hitting .163 (7-for-43) with one RBI in his previous 12 games. … DH Young is batting .323 (12-for-34) over his last nine games with four homers and nine RBIs. … OF Bobby Higginson, sidelined since June 29 with a pulled left hamstring, is expected to come off the disabled list Friday.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Royals - 26-22 on the road; Tigers - 12-35 at home.
INJURIES: Royals - INF Mendy Lopez (calf), 15-day DL; 1B Sweeney (back), 15-day DL; RHP Miguel Asencio (elbow), 60-day DL. Tigers - OF Higginson (hamstring), 15-day DL; INF Dean Palmer (shoulder and neck), 60-day DL.