Royals-Tigers Preview

Drew Smyly has enjoyed success in the past against the Kansas City Royals, but he could be wary of them this time.

Smyly figures to have a tall task as he tries to pitch the Detroit Tigers back into first place Wednesday at home against the Royals, who seek their first 10-game win streak in nearly 20 years.

Kansas City (38-32) has totaled 22 runs to take the first two games of this four-game series and move one-half game in front of Detroit (36-31) in the AL Central.

''A lot of games left, so it really doesn't matter, but to say you're first place, it feels pretty good,'' designated hitter Billy Butler said. ''Being in first place any time is good - even if it's after the first game.''

Former Cy Young Award winners Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer combined to allow 17 runs in the first two games. That's the most ever by two teammates with Cy Young Awards in back-to-back team games.

Now Smyly (3-5, 3.58 ERA) is tasked with trying to slow down a club he owns a 2.05 ERA against, going 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA in three starts. His best outing this year came when he pitched seven scoreless innings in a 9-2 rout of the Royals on May 3.

The left-hander has received only 16 total runs of support in 10 starts and has had differing results against two of Kansas City's hottest hitters. Alex Gordon is 1 for 14 against him but Butler is 5 for 8.

Gordon is 5 for 10 in this series with a two-run homer in Tuesday's 11-4 rout while Butler is 12 for 26 with 10 RBIs in a seven-game run. Former Tigers infielder Omar Infante leads the Royals with seven RBIs in this series, but he's 0 for 3 versus Smyly.

The Royals now look for their first 10-game win streak since a 14-game run July 23-Aug. 5, 1994. Kansas City is in first place this late in the season for the first time since 2003, when it went 83-79 - its last winning season before last year.

Detroit has lost 11 of 16 and is out of first place for the first time since taking over the division lead July 3.

''The players are getting sick of this, certainly,'' manager Brad Ausmus said. ''I know I'm sick of this, they are sick of it and I'm sure the fans are sick of this. We just have to find a way to fix it. I don't know a magical spell to do that.''

The Tigers played without Torii Hunter, who left Monday's 11-8 loss with a hamstring cramp and doesn't think he will be back for the remainder of the series.

Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie (3-6, 4.04) is 1-4 with a 4.17 ERA in seven starts at Comerica Park.

The right-hander gave up two runs over 5 2-3 innings with a season-high nine strikeouts Friday to end his 11-start winless streak in a 7-2 road win over the Chicago White Sox.

Guthrie will face the Tigers for the first time after going 2-2 with a 4.61 ERA against them in four 2013 outings. Alex Avila went 4 for 9 with two homers against him in those games.

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