The Detroit Tigers are getting healthier, as is their lead in the AL Central.
After increasing their division lead to 1 1/2 games, the Tigers will have starting second baseman Placido Polanco back in the lineup Saturday when they play the middle game of their series against the Kansas City Royals.
Sean Casey hit a two-run homer as the Tigers (92-62) beat the Royals 7-3 on Friday. The Minnesota Twins, second in the AL Central, lost earlier Friday in Baltimore and probably wish the Tigers did not have five games left with Kansas City (58-95).
Detroit improved to 12-1 this season against the Royals. After two more games in Kansas City, the Tigers finish the season at home with three contests against the Toronto Blue Jays and three more with the Royals.
“Anybody who says you don’t get excited, that your heart doesn’t beat a little faster in this situation, I would never believe that,” Leyland said. “I just don’t buy that. They talk about managers, they say look how calm he is. You try to keep your composure at all times. Sometimes you lose it.”
Polanco will be activated from the disabled list and play on Saturday. Manager Jim Leyland said the second baseman would not play Sunday, though. Polanco, hitting .294 with three home runs, 44 RBIs and 54 runs scored, went on the disabled list on Aug. 16 after separating his shoulder diving for a ball in Boston.
The Tigers will start Kenny Rogers (16-6, 3.74 ERA), who is 5-0 with a 1.72 ERA in his last seven starts. The 41-year-old left-hander gave up four hits in six shutout innings to earn a win in an 8-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox on Monday.
Rogers hasn’t lost since Aug. 12, when he gave up four runs—all unearned— against the Chicago White Sox. He is 1-0 with a 6.06 ERA in three starts against the Royals this season, and 19-13 with a 3.87 ERA in 31 starts and 20 relief appearances versus them in his career.
Kansas City counters with Mark Redman (10-9, 5.33 ERA), who is 3-1 with a 2.96 ERA in his last four starts.
The left-hander allowed four runs and 10 hits in 8 2-3 innings of a 7-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday. He became the Royals’ first double-digit winner since Darrell May won 10 in 2003.
Redman is 0-1 with a 6.10 ERA in two starts against the Tigers this season, and 2-3 with a 4.98 ERA in six career starts against them.
Friday was the Royals’ first game under bench coach Billy Doran, who took over after manager Buddy Bell underwent throat surgery.
“We’ve got nine games left, and hopefully we’ll do much better the rest of the time,” Doran said.
Zack Greinke, 22, came out of the bullpen in the ninth to make his first appearance of the season. The right-hander left Kansas City in spring training and spent most of the season in the minors after undergoing treatment for emotional issues. He was the 31st pitcher the Royals have used, a franchise record.
Kansas City must win five of its last nine games to avoid a third straight 100-loss season.
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