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Price leads Tigers against Royals with AL Central's top spot at stake

KC leads Detroit by 1/2 game in AL Central

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DETROIT – The two best teams, their two best pitchers, and only a half game of separation atop the division. That's what Friday's AL Central duel brings to Detroit, as David Price and Yordano Ventura duke it out to kick off a three-game weekend series.

Detroit is coming off a disappointing series loss to the struggling Chicago White Sox, courtesy of a wild outing from Shane Greene and an 8th inning meltdown by Joba Chamberlain.

As a result, the Tigers sit 1/2 game behind the Royals in the division after KC took two of three from Cleveland to polish off a seven-game home stand.

Both teams start the series with 18 wins, so whichever takes this series is guaranteed the division lead heading into next week.

First Pitch: 7:08 p.m. on FSD

With the Tigers needing a win, Price is just the man for the job. He's coming off a complete game victory over these same Royals in Kauffman Stadium, allowing just five hits and one solo home run. The Tigers were coming off two straight losses to the Royals before Price flipped the switch and set up an eventual series split.

Ventura, on the other hand, struggled through five April starts before serving a five-game suspension for instigating a fight with, well, just about the entire White Sox roster.

The suspension caused Ventura to miss the four-game series with Detroit last weekend.

In his last start, Ventura allowed five earned runs for the second time in three outings. His WHIP increased to 1.21 and he walked a season-high four batters.

Ventura got one start against Detroit last season and emerged with a win, allowing three earned runs in seven innings. Kansas City scored seven runs off of Max Scherzer in the 2nd inning en route to Ventura's 5th win of the season.

The Royals are hoping to see the Ventura of old return, as he won 14 games by striking out nearly eight hitters per nine innings and stranding 77 percent of runners last season.

Early in 2015, Ventura's numbers are down across the board. His average fastball velocity, still a very good 95.7 mph, has fallen from an elite 97 mph mark in 2014. And despite lowering opponents' batting average on balls in play (BABIP) from .301 to .250, Ventura owns a 5.07 FIP (fielding independent pitching) and fewer than seven K's per nine.

The heart of the Tigers' order is a real threat to leave the ballpark against the young righty. He allows 1.32 homers per nine innings, a strange trend for a guy inducing far more ground balls early in 2015.

Ventura will face this starting nine:

Anthony Gose, CF
Ian Kinsler, 2B
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Victor Martinez, DH
Yoenis Cespedes, LF
J.D. Martinez, RF
Nick Castellanos, 3B
James McCann, C
Andrew Romine, SS

Ned Yost will send out:

Alcides Escobar, SS
Lorenzo Cain, CF
Eric Hosmer, 1B
Kendrys Morales, DH
Alex Gordon, LF
Salvador Perez, C
Omar Infante, 2B
Paulo Orlando, RF
Christian Colon, 3B

If Detroit can beat Ventura on Friday, it'll regain a slim lead in the AL Central heading into the weekend. The Tigers are 5-1 in Price's starts this season.