Royals-Tigers Preview

The Associated Press

The Detroit Tigers wasted a key chance to move atop the AL Central.

They'll hope their ace can get them back on track.

A day after being surprisingly swept in a doubleheader, Justin Verlander will try to help the Tigers bounce back Monday night when they host a Kansas City Royals club that caused plenty of problems for the reigning MVP last month.

Detroit (80-72) is one game back of Central-leading Chicago heading into the final 10 games of the regular season as it looks to win its second straight division title.

The White Sox fell 4-1 at Los Angeles on Sunday as their losing streak reached five games, but the Tigers failed to take advantage. Detroit lost 10-4 to Minnesota in the first game of its doubleheader before dropping the nightcap 2-1 in 10 innings.

"It's not disappointing," manager Jim Leyland insisted. "We're one game back with 10 games to play."

Verlander (15-8, 2.74 ERA) will try to give Detroit a chance to turn the division race into a dead heat, but the White Sox are opening a three-game home set with last-place Cleveland - a team they've beaten five times in a row.

Though Verlander is 14-2 with a 2.76 ERA in 22 career meetings with the Royals (70-82), he turned in his worst performance against Kansas City - and easily his worst start of the season - on the road Aug. 28. The 2011 AL Cy Young Award winner surrendered a career high-tying eight earned runs and 12 hits with six strikeouts in 5 2-3 innings, leaving without a decision.

Verlander had been 5-0 with a 1.93 ERA over his previous six starts against the Royals.

The right-hander should have a good chance to re-establish that success at home, where he's 6-0 with a 1.48 ERA over his past eight starts - all Detroit wins.

He wasn't at his most dominant Wednesday against Oakland, grinding through six inning and throwing 122 pitches. But he held the A's to five hits in a 6-2 win, extending his personal scoreless streak to 13 innings over his last two outings, winning both.

Miguel Cabrera is hitting .377 with seven homers and 17 RBIs during his 13-game hitting streak as he builds his case to be the Tigers' second MVP winner in as many years.

He's also become a serious contender to win baseball's first Triple Crown in 45 years, leading the league with a .331 average and 133 RBIs while tying Texas' Josh Hamilton with 42 homers.

It's been a while since he's gone deep against the Royals, who saw their four-game winning streak end with a 15-4 loss to Cleveland on Sunday. Despite hitting .314 in the last 26 games in this series, Cabrera hasn't homered in that stretch.

The last time he hit one out against Kansas City was April 10, 2011, against the pitcher he'll see on the mound Monday. Cabrera is 16 for 32 with two homers and four doubles against Luke Hochevar, his highest average off any pitcher he's faced at least 23 times.

Hochevar (8-14, 5.40) didn't do the Tigers any favors Tuesday, surrendering three solo homers in seven innings of a 3-2 loss to the White Sox.

The right-hander is 1-5 with a 6.33 ERA in his last eight starts, and was roughed up in his only season meeting with Detroit on May 1. He lasted four innings at Comerica Park that day while getting tagged for a career high-tying nine runs and 12 hits.

The Tigers were swept in three games at Kansas City in the most recent series, starting with Verlander's loss, but they won seven of the first eight meetings this season.

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