Looking to avenge a series sweep that got their season off on the wrong foot, the last-place Tigers hope to trade places with the Royals in the AL Central on Tuesday night when these teams open a three-game set at Kauffman Stadium.
Detroit (16-22) missed the playoffs last season, a year after reaching the World Series, and responded by making a blockbuster trade in the offseason. Acquiring Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis from Florida for six prospects helped make the Tigers a popular pick as the AL’s best team going into the season.
The two All-Stars, however, haven’t started well, with Cabrera batting .252 — nearly 60 points below his career average—and Willis (knee) landing on the disabled list after just two starts.
Their additions could not prevent Detroit from opening the season 0-7, its worst start since going 0-9 in 2003 en route to a team-record 119 losses. That woeful start began with a three-game sweep at home to the Royals as the Tigers’ vaunted lineup managed only five runs.
Cabrera went 2-for-20 during that season-opening seven-game skid and enters this series in another slump, batting .171 (6-for-35) with no RBIs in Detroit’s last nine games.
The Tigers have lost seven of those contests to fall a half-game behind Kansas City (16-21) for last place in the Central.
“We got to take care of our own business,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland told the team’s official Web site. “We got to get on one of those rolls where we win four out of five, three out of four, split a series, get it going a little bit.”
Leyland hopes the Tigers’ first visit to Kansas City can help them get back on track. They own a 15-3 record at Kauffman Stadium over the last two seasons, hitting .319 with 34 homers.
Detroit, though, will have to contend with emerging Royals ace Zack Greinke (4-1, 1.80 ERA) on Tuesday.
The right-hander helped the Royals complete their sweep of the Tigers on April 3, allowing one run and six hits in seven innings of a 4-1 victory. He improved to 7-3 with a 3.15 ERA in 14 games - 11 starts - against them.
Greinke was solid again Wednesday, giving up three runs and five hits with eight strikeouts in seven innings of a 9-4 win over Los Angeles. It was the third game in a row he pitched seven innings and the sixth time in seven starts he went at least that deep.
“You’ve just got to be aggressive and just try to do your game, go deep in the game and keep it close,” Greinke said. “More than likely, if you do that, you will win more games than you will lose.”
The Tigers counter with Nate Robertson (1-4, 6.64), who is 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA and four homers allowed in his last three starts against Kansas City.
The left-hander has given up at least four runs in all seven of his outings this season, and he has failed to last six innings in any of his three road starts. Last Tuesday, he allowed four runs and a season-high 10 hits over 6 1-3 innings in a 5-0 loss to Boston.
Jose Guillen has hit .462 (6-for-13) with two homers against Robertson, and has gone 8-for-14 in his last four games overall. Mark Grudzielanek is 5-for-6 off Robertson and enters this matchup with three straight multihit games.
Both Guillen and Grudzielanek had two hits Sunday as Kansas City beat Baltimore 4-0 to salvage the finale of a four-game set.
Detroit’s Curtis Granderson is 1-for-16 over the last four games, dropping his batting average .246 after he hit .302 last season. However, he has thrived at Kansas City, hitting .338 with six homers and 21 RBIs in his last 18 games there. He’s 4-for-13 with a homer off Greinke.