Tigers, Royals kick off diminished 3-game series Tuesday

(Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

DETROIT – When the Kansas City Royals outlasted the Detroit Tigers for a 2-1 win in 10 innings on Sunday Night Baseball on May 10, the feel around the AL Central was 'just wait until August.'

The Royals had taken round one. They won four of the first seven meetings and gained a slim lead over the Tigers in the division. But with the back and forth nature of the first two months, there was no question this race would come down to 12 huge head-to-head games down the stretch.

Well, the stretch just got here, and the race for the AL Central is over.

The Tigers have played terribly inconsistent baseball since the first two weeks of the season, going an AL-worst 40-52 since jumping out to an 11-2 start. Detroit has been outscored by 33 runs this season and hasn't swept a series since the second series of the year- nearly four months ago.

In fact, the state of the Tigers has rarely been so uncertain. Just days after the team finally settled on selling to "reboot" for next season, Dave Dombrowski was booted from the premises and Al Avila took over, claiming the Tigers are "still confident they can make a push this year."

The Tigers were under .500 with David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria - the team's best pitcher, a legitimate power threat and closer. So how, without those three pieces, do they hope to make a push toward the wildcard that has eluded them for over a month?

It starts Tuesday against the best team in the AL. Justin Verlander takes the bump against a team that knows him well - Kansas City.

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

The Royals have 447 at-bats against Verlander coming into the series opener. Here's the starting lineup on Tuesday:

Alcides Escobar, SS
Ben Zobrist, LF
Lorenzo Cain, CF
Eric Hosmer, 1B
Kendrys Morales, DH
Mike Moustakas, 3B
Salvador Perez, C
Alex Rios, RF
Omar Infante, 2B

Cain, Morales, Rios and Perez have dominated Verlander over their careers, hitting a combined .377 with three homers and 15 doubles. But the rest of the lineup struggles against the former MVP, especially Infante and Moustakas, who are a combined 11-69 (.159) with 10 strikeouts.

Verlander is coming off of his first win of the season and back-to-back eight-inning starts. The Tigers were 0-7 in JV's appearances this season before he held Tampa Bay to just four hits over eight innings last outing, striking out 10 for the victory.

Kansas City will counter with Danny Duffy, who was excellent in July after struggling throughout the first half. Duffy is 4-5 with a 4.28 ERA and low strikeouts (52 in 82 innings). He beat the Tigers on April 30 when he allowed just one run on seven hits in seven innings.

The Tigers line up like this:

Rajai Davis, LF
Jose Iglesias, SS
Ian Kinsler, 2B
Victor Martinez, DH
J.D. Martinez, RF
James McCann, C
Nick Castellanos, 3B
Jefry Marte, 1B
Anthony Gose, CF

The Tigers' starting lineup hits just .219 against Duffy with 26 strikeouts, two homers and two doubles in 108 at-bats.

The series will continue on Wednesday with Matt Boyd, who was acquired in the Price trade with Toronto last week, making his Tigers debut against new Royal Johnny Cueto.