The Tigers aim to avoid their fifth straight defeat on Tuesday when they continue a three-game series against the Royals, winners of 10 of their last 13.
Detroit (71-84) had a three-game winning streak from Sept. 6-8, but has since dropped four in a row and 10 of 11. The Tigers suffered a third straight home loss on Monday, falling 6-2 to Kansas City (71-86).
The Tigers, who have dropped nine of 16 games in the season series, now own a one-game advantage over the Royals as both teams try to avoid finishing last in the AL Central.
“I don’t really think in terms of fourth place or last place—I think in terms of winning games, and that’s what we aren’t doing right now,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of his club, which hasn’t finished fifth in the division since losing a club-record 119 games in 2003.
The Royals, meanwhile, have put together a strong run recently as they try to avoid a fifth consecutive last-place finish in the division. David DeJesus went 4-for-4 and rookie Mike Aviles drove in two runs on Monday for the Royals, who improved to 10-3 since Sept. 11.
“We’re hoping that a strong finish can be a stepping stone into next season,” said Aviles, who has hit .309 (17-for-55) during his team’s surge.
Kansas City hopes to keep its momentum going behind Zack Greinke (12-10, 3.59 ERA), who is 3-1 with a 2.77 ERA in four September starts.
On Thursday, the right-hander allowed two hits in seven innings in a 12-0 home rout of lowly Seattle. He fanned seven batters.
Against the Tigers, Greinke is 7-4 with a 3.50 ERA in 16 games and 5-2 with a 3.16 ERA in nine appearances in Detroit. He is 0-1 with a 5.25 ERA in two starts against Detroit this year.
He’ll match up against Freddy Garcia (1-0, 0.00), who is trying to build off a successful debut with the Tigers.
Pitching for the first time in over a year, he held Texas to an unearned run and two hits over five innings of a 17-4 victory on Wednesday.
The 33-year-old right-hander agreed to a minor league deal with Detroit in August after he was limited to 11 starts for Philadelphia last season due to an injured right shoulder.
“I did everything I could to get back,” Garcia said. “I pitched my game, threw my pitches.”
Garcia is 8-10 with a 6.01 ERA in 22 career starts versus the Royals, but 0-4 with an 8.13 ERA over the last five meetings. He last faced them June 8, 2007 in Kansas City—his last outing for the Phillies.
Detroit slugger Gary Sheffield missed the opener as he started serving a four-game suspension that stemmed from a brawl with Cleveland last week. Also, first baseman Miguel Cabrera left in the third inning with a tight back, but Leyland said he could be available as the designated hitter on Tuesday.
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