Royals-Tigers Preview

AP - Sports

The Kansas City Royals are in an unfamiliar position atop the AL Central and hope to make a big statement against the two-time defending division champions.

That may be difficult in a place that has given them fits lately, though the Detroit Tigers do enter this season series opener in a big funk.

Wade Davis will try to help the Royals end their seven-game skid in Detroit on Tuesday night when he opposes Max Scherzer, whose Tigers look to avoid a fifth straight loss.

Kansas City (10-7), which hasn't won a division title since 1985, had dropped four of six before coming through with a doubleheader sweep in Boston on Sunday. Following a 4-2 victory in the opener, Billy Butler hit a game-tying homer in the eighth inning and Lorenzo Cain walked with the bases loaded in the 10th in a 5-4 win in the second game.

"I thought we had great at-bats in crucial situations," manager Ned Yost said.

His team didn't have many good at-bats in losing its final seven games at Comerica Park last season, hitting .216 with seven walks and 67 strikeouts. Kansas City has lost 12 of 15 in Detroit and now looks to avoid its longest losing streak there since dropping 14 straight between 1987 and 1990.

The Tigers went 13-5 against the Royals last season but enter this three-game set having lost four straight. They've scored six runs in 54 innings over their last five games while batting .191, having suffered a three-game sweep to the Los Angeles Angels over the weekend.

"We have no excuses," said Torii Hunter, who was hitting .418 before going 1 for 7 in the last two games. "We have a day off Monday, so we'll kick back, watch some basketball and come back Tuesday ready to go."

Hunter is 3 for 7 with two doubles against Davis (2-0, 2.25), but the right-hander enters this matchup having thrown 12 scoreless innings over his last two outings while striking out 13.

Scherzer (1-0, 2.84) also is coming off a pair of impressive starts, with 23 strikeouts over 14 innings as he limited Oakland and Seattle to two earned runs.

Scherzer, 12-2 with a 2.58 ERA in his last 23 starts - including the 2012 playoffs, went 2-0 in three starts against the Royals last season as he gave up four runs over 17 innings.

Davis, on the other hand, allowed three runs in 4 1-3 innings of relief versus the Tigers (9-9) last year while with Tampa Bay. In his only career start at Detroit, Davis surrendered home runs to Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila while giving up five runs over six innings in a 7-6 loss in 2011.

Cabrera and Avila are a combined 4 for 17 against Davis, but each hit was a homer.

Victor Martinez has gone 1 for 9 against him while Austin Jackson is 1 for 8, and that duo is a combined 1 for 33 during Detroit's four-game skid.

Catcher Salvador Perez is 5 for 7 with a double and two homers versus Scherzer while Alex Gordon has gone 7 for 18. Gordon is batting .342 overall, second on the team to Cain at .368.

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