On Tuesday the Detroit Tigers (38-32) fell out of first place in the AL Central for the first time all season. The resurgent Kansas City Royals took three straight games in Detroit to build a 1.5-game lead, but with a couple of hard-fought victories the Tigers have regained their familiar place atop the division.
View Standings: Tigers regain first place
Detroit won consecutive games for just the third time this month to recapture a slim half-game lead over Kansas City on Friday. On Saturday it will take a bounce-back effort from starting pitcher Justin Verlander for the Tigers to keep the winning streak alive.
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Verlander's slump has evolved into a downright collapse over the last seven starts. He owns a 7.83 ERA over that stretch and was tagged with five of his seven losses on the season.
The first loss of the seven-start slide came at the hands of the Cleveland Indians (37-37), who pegged Verlander for 11 hits and five runs in six innings on May 20. The former MVP has recorded just one quality start since that outing and his ERA is an unacceptable 4.98 on the year.
Verlander will need to be careful with a couple Indians' bats near the top of the lineup on Saturday. Outfielders Michael Bourn and Michael Brantley hit a combined .391 against the 31-year-old, but without any power: no home runs and only four extra-base hits. The rest of the Cleveland roster hits .216 against Verlander.
The Indians will send out 23-year-old Trevor Bauer, looking for his second straight victory. The righty owns a 4.20 ERA in seven starts, including a win over Verlander on May 20, when he held Detroit to two runs in six innings. The two runs came off of solo shots from Torii Hunter and Alex Avila.
Detroit will finish the series in Cleveland on Sunday afternoon.