Tigers kick off huge four-game series with Royals Thursday

Alex Gordon out for series

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Detroit Tigers (50-37) will finish the first half of the 2014 season with four games against the second-place Kansas City Royals (47-43) in Kauffman Stadium. Detroit leads Kansas City by 4.5 games in the AL Central going into the series.

When the Royals last played in Detroit, from June 16-19, they took over first place for the first time this season by winning three of the four games. The Tigers quickly regained their spot atop the division, but the Royals have stayed within striking distance and have a chance to make a dent in the deficit before the midsummer classic.

Jeremy Guthrie will start game one for Kansas City after surrendering six runs to the Indians in his last appearance. Guthrie dominated the Tigers on June 18, allowing one run on four hits in 6.2 innings.

Detroit will counter with left-handed Drew Smyly, looking to bounce back from two starts in which he surrendered a combined nine runs. Smyly has split his two starts against the Royals this season, pitching seven innings both times.

Royals left fielder Alex Gordon won't play in the series, and Tigers' designated hitter Victor Martinez is out Thursday. It's uncertain if Martinez will play in the series.

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