Tigers-Royals Preview

The Associated Press

Justin Verlander was roughed up in his last start in Kansas City and it didn't bother him at all.

The Detroit Tigers ace would probably have a much different reaction if that happened during the heat of a pennant race.

Making his first start at Kauffman Stadium since last month's All-Star game, Verlander goes for a sixth consecutive winning decision against the Royals in Tuesday night's series opener.

Given the start by AL manager Ron Washington, Verlander was tagged for five first-inning runs in an 8-0 loss to the NL on July 10. The reigning MVP and Cy Young Award winner's decision to hit triple digits on the radar gun instead of treating it like the first inning of a normal start didn't produce good results.

"I was able to laugh at it right away," Verlander said. "Obviously, you don't want to go out like that, but I had fun. That's why I don't try to throw 100 (mph) in the first inning, but this is for the fans. It doesn't usually work out too well for me."

Whatever Verlander (12-7, 2.50 ERA) has done against the Royals has worked out well considering he's 14-2 with a 2.36 ERA in 21 starts in the series.

The right-hander, who has won four straight starts at Kansas City, had won five in a row overall in this AL Central matchup before yielding two runs in eight innings of Detroit's 3-2 home loss May 2. That's the Tigers' lone defeat in eight meetings with the Royals (56-71) this season.

The Tigers (69-58) have a favorable schedule down the stretch with 10 more games against Kansas City and six apiece against Minnesota and Cleveland as they try to chase down Central-leading Chicago.

Detroit hosts the White Sox following this three-game set.

"We have to try to figure out some way to play better than the White Sox," manager Jim Leyland said. "They've been answering every bell so far."

Miguel Cabrera, among the AL's best with 32 homers and 106 RBIs, didn't answer the bell for the first time this season in Sunday's 5-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels. A sore right ankle kept him out, but the Tigers slugger is expected back at third base during this series. He was the designated hitter Friday and Saturday.

"I think this (break) did wonders for him," Leyland told the Tigers' official website. "It has nothing to do with the fact that we won the game."

Back from a 2-5 trip, the Royals - who were swept in the Tigers' last visit April 16-18 - open a 10-game homestand with Luis Mendoza (7-9, 4.26) on the mound. The right-hander had won back-to-back starts before walking four in his last outing, Wednesday's 5-3 loss at Tampa Bay.

"I struggled with my command," Mendoza said. "... In baseball, the base on balls hurt you."

Mendoza has won three straight home starts and the Royals have won six of seven at Kauffman Stadium.

Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder has walked five times - three intentionally - against Kansas City this season while also driving in nine runs. He's never faced Mendoza.

Royals DH Billy Butler, one homer shy of 100 for his career, is a .387 hitter (12 for 31) against Detroit in 2012. He's 16 for 46 (.348) with two home runs and four doubles versus Verlander.

Left fielder Alex Gordon's chances of recording a fifth consecutive two-hit game don't look good as he's 7 for 39 (.179) with 15 strikeouts against the Tigers ace.

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