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AP - Sports

Drew Smyly hasn't been a starter for long, but manager Brad Ausmus considers him to be a key part of the Detroit Tigers' solid rotation.

Smyly makes his first start in over a week Saturday night against the host Kansas City Royals as he looks to help Detroit extend its winning streak to four.

After making all 63 of his appearances in 2013 and his first two this season out of the bullpen, Smyly (1-1, 3.60 ERA) has made two outings as the Tigers' fifth starter.

The left-hander last pitched April 23, though, as off days forced Ausmus to skip his turn in the rotation. Smyly allowed two runs and struck out seven in six innings of Detroit's 6-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox in his last appearance.

Smyly, who hadn't started since September 2012 prior to this season, is 2-0 with a 2.79 ERA in two starts and eight relief outings against the Royals.

"He pitched so well the other day, I didn't want to (skip) him again, but the truth is there really wasn't another answer," Ausmus told the team's official website. "If we try to keep everyone in the normal five-man rotation, guys get pushed back seven days and we just can't do that. He understood."

Ausmus has been pleased with the performances of his entire rotation, as Tigers' starters have a 2.96 ERA after Rick Porcello gave up two runs in seven innings of Detroit's 8-2 series-opening win Friday. That mark ranks second in the AL behind Oakland.

Smyly will look to add another solid start to the rotation's resume as he opposes Danny Duffy in this contest.

Duffy (1-1, 2.16) will be replacing injured starter Bruce Chen, who is on the disabled list with back pain. Duffy came out of the bullpen in the sixth inning Wednesday and hit a batter before walking the next. He was pulled immediately, but he was charged with two runs allowed.

Manager Ned Yost knows he's throwing Duffy into the rotation on short rest, though he doesn't seem concerned.

"I believe he'll be fine," Yost said. "I'll have some coverage if I need it."

The left-hander is 1-3 with a 4.09 ERA in six starts against the Tigers (15-9), who have won five of six after Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez and Alex Avila drove in two runs apiece Friday.

Miguel Cabrera doubled and is hitting .389 during an eight-game hitting streak.

Billy Butler hit a solo homer for the Royals (14-14), who will be looking to avoid losing three straight for the second time this season. He's hitting .345 during a seven-game hitting streak.

''For my part it was good, but it was a bad game as a team," Butler said. "That's one of those games where you feel like you've got to win. You feel like you had the advantage.''

Former Tiger Omar Infante had two hits and is batting .444 over his last five. Alex Gordon is hitting .194 in his last eight and is 1 for 12 with seven strikeouts against Smyly.

Detroit has won four straight meetings and has held Kansas City to three runs or fewer in each of the last six matchups.

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