The Kansas City Royals might not catch the first-place Detroit Tigers in the AL Central, but they remain a postseason contender.
Looking to continue their season-long success against Justin Verlander, the surging Royals try for a third consecutive victory overall and against the Tigers on Friday night at Comerica Park.
Kansas City (77-69) has not been to the playoffs since winning the 1985 World Series, but it's won 13 of 18 and is firmly entrenched in the wild-card race.
"We're playing good baseball right now," James Shields told the Royals' official website after he pitched eight strong innings in a 6-2 win at Cleveland on Wednesday. "We've got a lot of character and heart on this team. We're going to try to be in it until the end."
Kansas City has shown its mettle by going 9-7 this season against Detroit (84-62), which it trails by seven games in the Central. The Royals have lost two straight at Comerica, but did take two of three from the Tigers at home last weekend.
They had four runs and eight hits in seven innings off Verlander (12-11, 3.64 ERA) during a 4-3 win Saturday. The right-hander was 15-2 with a 2.73 ERA in 23 starts against Kansas City prior to this season, but he's lost each of his last three starts versus the Royals with a 4.79 ERA.
Detroit has dropped all of Verlander's five starts in the season series, though he pitched at least seven innings and gave up two or fewer runs in three of them.
"Obviously they have a good team,'' he said.
The Tigers have lost Verlander's last six outings overall, during which he's 0-3 with a 4.17 ERA.
"I want to build on the positives and I feel like I made progress (the last two starts)," he said. "That doesn't mean I expect to throw a shutout next time."
Eric Hosmer is 6 for 16 with a homer and two doubles versus Verlander this year. He's batting .408 with a home run against Detroit and has 11 RBIs in his last 13 games overall.
Billy Butler went 2 for 11 as Kansas City took two of three from the Indians this week, but he's 7 for 12 with four walks against Verlander in 2013.
The Royals' Bruce Chen (7-2, 2.79) allowed a two-run homer to Jose Iglesias and four other hits in seven innings of a 5-2 win over Detroit on Sunday. He's gone 2-0 with a 2.41 ERA in his last three overall starts.
"He changes speeds and got us out in front a lot," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "You know what you're going to get with him."
The left-hander tries to build on that last outing while hoping for a better performance than his most recent at Comerica, in which he gave up six runs and eight hits in 5 1-3 innings of a 6-3 loss Aug. 18.
In the hunt for a second straight Triple Crown, Miguel Cabrera hit a two-run homer off Chen in the home victory but went hitless against him Sunday.
Cabrera is 3 for his last 23 with no extra-base hits and three RBIs.
The Tigers won their second in a row Wednesday, 1-0 over the Chicago White Sox to conclude a 4-5 road trip.