The Detroit Tigers (53-37) have a chance on Sunday to take their biggest AL Central lead going into the All-Star break in the division's history. It has been a streaky season for the Tigers, but right now they are riding a five-game winning streak, including wins over the Kansas City Royals (47-46) in each of the last three games.
If Detroit sweeps the series on Sunday, the Royals will sit 8.5 games behind the Tigers in the division. That means after taking a slim 1.5-game lead over Detroit on June 18, Kansas City has lost 14 of 22 games and fallen dangerously close to .500.
TV: 2:10 p.m. ET, FSN (Detroit, Kansas City)
The first three games of the series have shown the Tigers winning in many fashions. In the opener, Detroit waxed Jeremy Guthrie en route to a 16-4 victory, the team's largest winning margin of the season. In games two and three, Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello silenced the Royals' offense, each allowing just one run over seven innings.
Series stats through three games:
Detroit: 3-0, 23 runs, 35 hits, 1 error
Kansas City: 0-3, 6 runs, 26 hits, 4 errors
On Sunday the Tigers have a chance to sweep the Royals for the third time this season and send them limping into the All-Star break. But for that to happen Justin Verlander will have to be much better than he was in his last appearance against Kansas City.
On June 16 the Royals tagged the former MVP for seven runs on 12 hits and handed him his seventh loss of the season. Kansas City has scored 12 earned runs off of the 31-year-old in 19 innings this year.
Though he earned wins over two of the top teams in baseball this July, Verlander hasn't featured his sharpest arsenal. In his last start the right-hander allowed five runs to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first inning but picked up the win behind 14 Tiger runs.
Kansas City will counter with veteran lefty Bruce Chen, making just his fifth start of the season. The 37-year-old has struggled against the Tiger lineup throughout his career, posting a 6-9 record and 5.58 ERA in 108 innings. Miguel Cabrera dominates Chen to the tune of a .410 average, four doubles, five home runs, 11 RBI and 10 walks over 39 at-bats.
A victory in Kansas City would give the Tigers a 10-3 record against the second-place Royals this season with just six more games scheduled between the two teams.