Max Scherzer has benefited from baseball's best run support all year, but the offense behind him has seemingly disappeared since he notched his 19th win.
The Detroit Tigers hope a matchup with the Kansas City Royals' Jeremy Guthrie can help reverse that trend.
Scherzer makes his fourth attempt at becoming the majors' first 20-game winner on Sunday as Detroit hosts Kansas City.
Offense came at a premium for both clubs in a 1-0 victory for Kansas City on Saturday as an RBI triple by Eric Hosmer in the first inning accounted for the game's lone run. A great throw from left field by Alex Gordon and relay from Alcides Escobar nailed Prince Fielder at the plate for the game's final out when the Tigers first baseman tried to score from first on a double.
The victory clinched the season series for Kansas City (78-70) for the first time since taking 11 of 18 games in 2008. It also pulled the Royals even with Baltimore in the AL wild-card chase and within one-half game of the New York Yankees as both teams lost Saturday.
"We had to win this ballgame and the manner in which we did it was just exciting," manager Ned Yost said.
The Tigers (85-63) hope Scherzer (19-3, 3.01 ERA) can help trim their magic number from 10. But he's surrendered 13 runs in 16 innings over his last three starts, losing the last two for his first back-to-back defeats since April 24 and 29 of last year.
He didn't help himself with a throwing error in a 5-1 road loss to the Chicago White Sox on Monday while allowing five runs - four earned - over a season-low four innings. Just one of the six hits was for extra bases, however.
"I'm not going to beat myself up over this outing," Scherzer said. "I've been pitching too well this year to do that. I'm just focused on what I can control and I just need to go out there and pitch the way I'm capable of."
Scherzer's 6.81 run-support average leads the majors, and he received an average of 7.32 runs while going 19-1 in his first 26 starts. But he's received a total of two runs of support in his last three outings.
He didn't need his best to secure victories in all three starts versus Kansas City earlier this year, posting a 4.05 ERA while receiving 16 runs of support over 20 innings.
Meanwhile, after being shut out for the 10th time Saturday, the Tigers have good reason to believe the runs will come a little easier against Guthrie (14-10, 4.11), who is 2-1 in three starts versus Detroit this year but with a 5.12 ERA.
Guthrie yielded four runs and a career-worst 13 hits over seven innings of a 4-1 road loss to the Tigers on Aug. 15.
Fielder and Andy Dirks are a combined 17 for 39 (.436) off Guthrie while Miguel Cabrera is 12 for 36 with three homers, nine RBIs and five walks.
Gordon is 9 for 25 off Scherzer with seven walks while Salvador Perez is 6 for 15.