Detroit (24-18) at Kansas City (22-22)

Fair Currently: Kansas City, MO
Temp: 84° F
  • Game info: 2:10 pm EDT Mon May 25, 2009
  • TV: FSD, FSKC
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Justin Verlander’s(notes) revival has been a big part of the Detroit Tigers’ charge to first place in the AL Central.

The Tigers are hoping their ace can help them avoid a losing streak, too.

Verlander will be on the mound Monday when the Tigers—coming off back-to-back losses to close their homestand—open a seven-game road trip with a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals.

The right-hander’s struggles were one of the reasons the Tigers failed to live up to expectations and lost 88 games. Coming off an 18-win season in 2007, Verlander lost 17 games and had a 4.84 ERA.

He had a 9.00 ERA through four starts this year, but since then Verlander has been dominant. In his last five starts, he is 4-0 with a 1.02 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 35 1-3 innings.

Verlander (4-2, 3.99 ERA) had a chance to become the first Detroit pitcher to strike out at least 10 in four straight starts Wednesday against Texas, but he fanned only eight while allowing one run and three hits in six innings of a 5-3 win.

“There were a lot of positives again tonight,” Verlander said. “I was aware of the strikeout record, but I wasn’t trying to do anything special. I haven’t tried anything special the last three games, and that’s how I’ve gotten double digits.”

Verlander has also frustrated the Royals throughout his career, going 7-1 with a 2.43 ERA in 11 starts.

Detroit (24-18) would like that trend to continue after the team dropped the final two games of its weekend set against Colorado. The Tigers had opened their homestand with seven straight wins after beating the Rockies 4-3 on Friday night, but they managed four total runs in the two defeats.

“This was a very good homestand, but it could have been a great one,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said after Sunday’s 3-1 defeat. “Hidden in that streak is that we haven’t done much offensively. We’ve pitched well, we’ve run well and we’ve caught the ball well, but offense hasn’t been there.”

The Royals’ offense has run into much bigger problems. Kansas City (22-22) was shut out in back-to-back 5-0 losses to open its weekend set at St. Louis, and the club is averaging 3.2 runs since May 8, losing 11 of 15 over that span.

But the team salvaged the finale against the Cardinals and got back to .500, as Mike Jacobs’(notes) seventh-inning RBI single stood up in a 3-2 victory.

“We still only scored a few more,” Kansas City manager Trey Hillman said, “but it was enough.”

The Royals finally got a good performance from their bullpen. Juan Cruz(notes) picked up the save with a scoreless ninth after Kansas City had blown its first four save opportunities since closer Joakim Soria(notes) was placed on the disabled list.

Gil Meche(notes) will hope to help the bullpen out with a long outing. Meche (2-4, 4.42) has been dealing with a problematic back and was 1-4 with a 6.33 ERA in his previous five starts before Wednesday.

But he’s hoping he has it turned around after he held Cleveland to two runs in six innings. He didn’t get a decision in Kansas City’s 6-5 loss.

Meche has been outstanding lately against the Tigers, tossing six straight quality starts against them and going 3-0 with a 2.63 ERA over that span. But the Tigers took two of three in Kansas City from April 24-26, giving them seven wins in their last nine games at Kauffman Stadium.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Verlander Det vs. G. Meche KC
19-9 Record 6-10
3.45 ERA 5.09
269 K 95
63 BB 58
1.18 WHIP 1.57

Scoreboard

Monday, May 25