Detroit (29-14) at Kansas City (10-31)

Fair Currently: Kansas City, MO
Temp: 67° F
  • Game info: 8:10 pm EDT Mon May 22, 2006
  • TV: RTN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Detroit Tigers are one of the hottest teams in baseball. With a four-game set against the Kansas City Royals starting Monday, they’re unlikely to cool off just yet.

The Tigers (29-14) hold the best record in baseball, while the Royals (10-31) hold the worst and are trying to avoid their second 10-game losing streak of the season.

Kansas City dropped 11 in a row from April 9-21.

Detroit has won nine of its last 10 games, including a 1-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday. Placido Polanco drove in the winning run with a pinch-hit single in the eighth inning.

“I just tried to stay inside the ball,” said Polanco. “I try to hit the ball to right field a lot.”

The Tigers took two of three games from the Reds, and have either won or split all but three of their 15 series this season.

Kansas City has been swept in three straight series after a 10-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday.

“We’re just terrible. There’s no two ways about it,” Royals pitcher Scott Elarton said after suffering the loss. “We’re pretty much bad every facet of the game.”

Elarton expressed his displeasure with his teammates and would not blame manager Buddy Bell, owner David Glass or general manager Allard Baird for the team’s shortcomings.

“I’m not going to point fingers at anybody,” Elarton said. “I don’t care if Casey Stengel’s our manager and (they have) the greatest general manager in history. If guys aren’t willing to put out the effort and do what they’re capable of doing, then it’s not going to be good anyway.”

The Royals have been outscored 65-33 during their nine-game losing streak, with the bullpen recording an 8.19 ERA and a .344 opponent batting average during the slide.

The Tigers will give Justin Verlander (5-3, 3.18 ERA) a chance to build on one of his best career outings when he faces the Royals for the first time.

The right-hander went eight innings, allowing six hits with no strikeouts or walks in his last start, a 2-0 win over the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday.

“Usually not my style of pitching,” said Verlander. “They were aggressive on the fastball and were putting it in play.”

The 24-year-old rookie has surrendered three or fewer earned runs in seven of his eight starts this season.

The Tigers’ rotation is 7-1 with a 2.61 ERA in the last 10 games.

The Royals counter with left-hander Jeremy Affeldt (2-3, 5.46), who will look for better control than he had on Wednesday.

Affeldt issued six walks in six innings of a 5-0 loss to Cleveland, giving up five runs—four earned—and three hits including a grand slam to Travis Hafner.

“The walks pretty much buried our team,” Affeldt said. “I just couldn’t find the plate. Then Hafner did exactly what he should have done with that pitch—put it in the seats.”

Affeldt has walked 14 batters in his last 12 2-3 innings.

He will face a resurgent Magglio Ordonez, who is 8-for-17 (.471) in the last five games.

The right fielder leads the team with 29 RBIs and is tied with Chris Shelton for the team lead with 11 home runs. He hit only eight homers with 46 RBIs in 82 games last season, his first season with the Tigers.

Ordonez and Shelton’s combined 2006 home run total of 22 is only five fewer than the 27 homers hit by the entire Kansas City team.

The Tigers have taken all four meetings with the Royals this season, outscoring them 24-7.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Verlander Det vs. J. Affeldt SF
17-9 Record 8-8
3.63 ERA 6.20
124 K 48
60 BB 55
1.33 WHIP 1.61