Detroit goes for series sweep behind Verlander Sunday

Tigers enter Sunday 4-0 against KC this season


KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Detroit Tigers (16-9) will look to complete a three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals (14-15) Sunday afternoon behind ace Justin Verlander.

Detroit smashed Kansas City for the second straight night on Saturday, scoring six runs in the top of the 9th en route to a 9-2 victory. Royals ace James Shields fell 8-2 to the Tigers in the opening game of the series on Friday.

The Tigers look right at home in Kauffman Stadium this weekend, outhitting the Royals by a total of 26 to nine. A hot Detroit lineup has posted 13 extra-base hits during the first two games of the series, tagging both the veteran Shields and youngster Danny Duffy with losses.

TV: 2:10 p.m. ET, FSN Detroit, FSN Kansas City (Kansas City)

On Sunday the Tiger offense will look to stay hot against first-year Royals pitcher Jason Vargas, who was signed to a four-year contract in November. The 31-year-old posted a 4.02 ERA in an injury-shorted 2013 campaign with the Los Angeles Angels.

Vargas's Royals career is off to a great start, as the right-hander owns a 2.40 ERA and 2-0 record through six starts. Detroit hopes to mirror what the Toronto Blue Jays were able to do against Vargas in his last start, when he was charged with 10 hits and five earned runs.

Detroit last saw Vargas on April 2, when he held the Tigers to one run over seven innings. Though Vargas failed to record a decision in the losing effort, he owns a strong history against this Detroit roster, which hits a combined .230 against him. He hasn't lost to the Tigers since July 3, 2010, when Sunday's starter Verlander defeated Vargas and the Seattle Mariners 6-1.

The Tigers' ace is coming off of a no-decision that ended a streak of three straight starts with a victory. Verlander went seven innings and surrendered three runs to the Chicago White Sox in that game, earning his fifth quality start in six starts this season.

Sunday's start will be Verlander's 31st against Kansas City in his career, second to only the Cleveland Indians, who have seen the former MVP 36 times. Verlander owns the Royals as a team, posting a 16-5 record and 2.85 ERA, but there are a few individual hitters that he will have to watch out for on Sunday.

Perhaps the hitter that Verlander struggles most with in the entire league is designated hitter Billy Butler. Butler boasts an impressive .437 average against Verlander with 11 RBI in 71 at bats. Butler's teammate Salvador Perez has experienced similar success against the ace early in his career, owning a .458 average with 10 RBI in 24 at bats.

The rest of the Royals roster hits just .216 against Verlander with more strikeouts (62) than hits (54).

If Verlander can shut down Kansas City for seven innings, then the Tigers will be in good shape to win their fifth straight game. Setup man Joba Chamberlain has been untouchable in his last four outings, including a spotless eighth inning on Saturday. After a shaky start to his Detroit career, the 28-year-old has slowly improved his ERA to 3.97 by allowing zero runs in nine of his last 10 appearances.

Detroit is already emerging as the class of the American League Central Division. The Tigers are the only team in the division with a winning record and hold a four-game lead over the second-place Royals. In fact, only the Milwaukee Brewers (21-10) have a higher winning percentage than the Tigers in all of baseball.

View: MLB standings

After Sunday's game the Tigers will return to Comerica Park for a seven-game home stand that starts Monday against the Houston Astros.