Miguel Cabrera landed a huge contract extension, Justin Verlander has rebounded from offseason surgery and the Detroit Tigers begin their run at a fourth consecutive American League Championship Series appearance when they host the Kansas City Royals on Monday.
Forecast: Chilly overnight, milder Monday
Cabrera scored an eight-year extension that raises his take-home pay to $292 million over the next 10 seasons, while Verlander didn’t allow a run all spring after having core muscle surgery. Detroit also has a new manager in Brad Ausmus, replacing the retired Jim Leyland.
The Royals are hoping to contend in the American League Central after remaining in the wild-card hunt deep into September last season. Kansas City hasn’t been part of the postseason since winning the World Series in 1985 – the days of George Brett and Bret Saberhagen – and relies heavily on a strong bullpen led by All-Star closer Greg Holland. The Tigers have a new second baseman in Ian Kinsler, acquired in the deal that sent Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers.
TV: 1:08 p.m. ET, FSN Kansas City, FSN Detroit
PITCHING MATCHUP: Royals RH James Shields (2013: 13-9, 3.15 ERA) vs. Tigers RH Justin Verlander (2013: 13-12, 3.46)
Shields is a workhorse and had a strong first season with Kansas City after being acquired from Tampa Bay. Interestingly, he was much better pitcher on the road with a 10-3 mark and 2.07 ERA compared to a 3-6 home record and 4.37 ERA. Shields is 6-3 with a 4.12 ERA in 14 career starts against Detroit.
Verlander topped 200 strikeouts for the fifth straight season but wasn’t as dominating in 2013 while recording his lowest victory total since 2008. The 2011 AL MVP believes the offseason surgery corrected some muscle deficiencies that affected last season’s performance and he allowed only eight hits in 20 innings during spring training.
Verlander is 16-5 with a 2.85 ERA in 29 career starts against Kansas City but three of the losses occurred last season when he beat the Royals once in six outings.
1. Verlander is starting on Opening Day for the seventh consecutive season while Shields is making his sixth, including two straight for the Royals.
2. Cabrera is batting .425 with two homers in 40 career at-bats against Shields.
3. Kansas City DH Billy Butler has torched Verlander for a .441 average and two homers in 68 career at-bats.