The Detroit Tigers are poised to end a 19-year playoff drought.
They’ll look to clinch a playoff spot and complete a perfect record at Kauffman Stadium this year in the finale of a three-game set against the Kansas City Royals on Sunday.
Detroit (93-62) will secure at least the AL wild card with a win over Kansas City (58-96) or a loss by the Chicago White Sox to Seattle on Sunday.
The Tigers haven’t reached the postseason since they won the AL East crown in 1987. They were eliminated by Minnesota in five games in that season’s American League Championship Series.
The Tigers are still looking to win their first AL Central crown and lead the second-place Twins by 1 1/2 games.
Detroit is also seeking to finish with the best record in the AL and trails the New York Yankees by one-half game in the race for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
“I hear people are already starting to plan celebrations,” leadoff hitter Curtis Granderson said. “I understand it seems like such a big deal for the fans and for the city. But at the same time, it would be a little celebration, hopefully, compared to winning the division. I hope it is not a huge one.
“For me, if we happen to win the game here (Sunday), for example, normal routine after the game, congratulate everybody, come in to the dugout, little hugs and what not, but I don’t think it should be too blown up.”
Detroit improved to 8-0 at Kauffman Stadium on the season with a 15-4 victory Saturday. The Tigers sent 16 men to the plate and scored 10 runs in the first inning as Granderson homered and added a two-run triple in the outburst.
Placido Polanco returned to the lineup and went 3-for-4 for Detroit, including a two-run double in the first inning. The second baseman was activated before the game after being out since Aug. 15 due to a separated left shoulder.
“The shoulder feels good,” Polanco said. “It bothers me a little bit, but I think it is past the stage where it was hurting. It bothers me more than it hurts. I can live with that. It is going to be part of me for a while.”
Shortstop Carlos Guillen went 3-for-3 with three RBIs to improve his average to .405 (17-for-42) with 11 RBIs against Kansas City this year.
The Tigers are 13-1 against the Royals, outscoring them 109-52 in the season series.
“It wasn’t pretty,” Kansas City interim manager Billy Doran said. “You just put it behind us and move on. That’s the only way you do after a night like this.”
Detroit starter Justin Verlander (16-9, 3.63 ERA) hasn’t allowed a run against Kansas City in two starts this year. He’s yielded just seven hits and struck out 13 over 16 innings to defeat the Royals twice, including a five hitter in an 8-0 victory at Kauffman Stadium on May 22.
The right-hander fell to just 2-5 with a 6.11 ERA over his last eight outings, though, after giving up six runs over 4 1-3 innings in a 7-0 loss at the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday. He’s failed to last past the fifth inning in three of his last five starts.
Verlander is bidding to become the majors’ first rookie with 17 victories since Cleveland’s C.C. Sabathia in 2001.
The Royals need to win five of their last eight games to avoid a third straight 100-loss season for the first time in franchise history.
Kansas City’s Runelvys Hernandez (6-9, 6.40) has pitched better down the stretch after a poor start, going 4-2 with a 3.98 ERA over his last seven outings. However, he lasted only 4 2-3 innings and allowed four runs and six hits and did not receive a decision in a 10-5 loss to Seattle last Sunday.
The right-hander is 4-2 with a 3.12 ERA in seven career outings against the Tigers.
Guillen is 6-for-14 in his career against Hernandez.