Tigers-Royals Preview


Superb pitching from the rotation is a big reason why the Detroit Tigers are on the verge of their longest winning streak of the season.

However, sending staff ace Justin Verlander to the mound at Kauffman Stadium may not be ideal.

Verlander goes for his first road win over the Kansas City Royals in two years on Sunday, while trying to lead the Tigers to a sixth straight victory in the series.

Detroit (16-9) has a 1.67 ERA from the starters during a four-game winning streak, which matches its 4-0 start to the season.

Drew Smyly provided the latest gem in Saturday's 9-2 win over the Royals (14-15). The reliever-turned-starter allowed two hits in seven scoreless innings after Rick Porcello yielded two runs and four hits in seven innings in the series opener.

The Tigers' starters have a 1.29 ERA during a five-game winning streak against the Royals.

Verlander (3-1, 2.48 ERA) is expected to get his chance to continue that dominance, but he hasn't won at Kauffman Stadium since April 16, 2012 - going 0-2 with a 6.04 ERA in four starts. Against the Royals at home on opening day, he yielded three runs in six innings while not getting a decision in a 4-3 win.

Verlander enters this matchup 3-0 with a 2.42 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 26 innings over four starts, with Detroit winning each. However, he was victimized by a big inning Tuesday, giving up all three runs in the third before leaving after the seventh and not getting a decision in a 4-3 road win over the Chicago White Sox.

"I was a little out of rhythm after six days off," Verlander said.

While Verlander tries to keep the rotation rolling, the offense looks to build on its .310 average and 6.6 runs per game over a 6-1 stretch.

Nick Castellanos may be back in the lineup after driving in three runs Saturday - two on a double. The rookie third baseman's 17 RBIs put him in a surprising tie for the team lead with Miguel Cabrera, who doubled on one of his two hits while plating a run Saturday.

The two-time reigning AL MVP is batting .400 with 10 RBIs over his past nine games, while Torii Hunter has a .386 average over his last 10 after connecting for a three-run shot Saturday.

The Royals are batting .172 while matching a season-high three-game slide.

"These things turn around quick. You look at Detroit's club and they are swinging the bats really good, all of them. They're hot right now," manager Ned Yost said. "They've got good pitching, which attributes to some of it. But we think we're a better offensive club than we've shown so far."

Norichika Aoki is 1 for 8 in this series after going 9 for 23 (.391) over the previous five games.

Jason Vargas (2-0, 2.40) is expected to get the ball after being tagged for five runs and 10 hits in 6 1-3 innings while not getting a decision in Tuesday's 10-7 win over Toronto. He had a 1.54 ERA through his first five starts of the season, which includes allowing one run in seven innings of a 2-1, 10-inning loss to Detroit on April 2.