For the first time in six seasons, Justin Verlander is not on the AL All-Star roster. However, he does have a chance to enter the break on a three-start winning streak.
He’ll look to help the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers complete a four-game sweep and improve to 7-0 on the road against the Kansas City Royals on Sunday.
A six-time All-Star, Verlander (8-7, 4.84 ERA) has endured some frustration through the first 3 1/2 months of the season. He has never had an ERA this high at this point in any of his previous eight years as a full-time starter.
He was booed at home Tuesday when he allowed five runs in the first inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, the right-hander didn’t allow a run in the next five innings of the 14-5 victory, winning his second straight outing.
"You kind of walk a fine line there between pitch conservation and not giving up any more runs," Verlander told MLB’s official website. "Because you know if you give up any more runs, that’s probably going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back."
Verlander allowed seven runs and a season-high 12 hits in six innings of an 11-8 home loss to the Royals (47-46) on June 16, and he’s 1-1 with a 5.68 ERA in three 2014 starts against them. He gave up three runs in seven innings of a 9-4 victory at Kansas City on May 4.
With Saturday’s 5-1 win, Detroit (53-37) has outscored the Royals 49-14 in winning all six meetings at Kauffman Stadium this year. The Tigers haven’t swept a four-game set there since going 9-0 at Kansas City in 2006.
J.D. Martinez and Alex Avila homered and Rick Porcello pitched seven strong innings to tie for the major league lead with his 12th win Saturday for Detroit, which has a 7 1/2-game lead over the second-place Royals in the Central.
While All-Star Victor Martinez continues to sit out with a strained right side, Detroit’s other Martinez has batted .390 with 10 homers and 28 RBIs in his last 30 games. He’s hit .483 with four of those home runs and 12 RBIs in nine contests against Kansas City this season.
Teammate Ian Kinsler is batting .377 with seven RBIs during a 15-game road hitting streak against the Royals.
Kinsler and J.D. Martinez are a combined 5 for 10 against Kansas City’s Bruce Chen (1-2, 7.11), while Miguel Cabrera is batting .410 with five homers and four doubles against him.
Replacing Jason Vargas (appendectomy), Chen makes his first start since April 24 and third appearance since missing two months with a lower back injury. The left-hander is 1-2 with a 7.45 ERA in four starts this season.
He went 1-2 with a 7.56 ERA as a starter against the Tigers in 2013.
Billy Butler had the lone RBI and two of the six hits Saturday for the Royals, losers of six of eight.
"To this point, we’ve underachieved," manager Ned Yost said. "We know we’re a second-half club."
Butler has batted .387 with six RBIs in his last eight games against Detroit, and is 19 for 37 off of Verlander since the start of the 2012 season.
Teammate Eric Hosmer is 10 for his last 29 with three doubles and a home run against Verlander, and he’s batting .426 during a 12-game hitting streak.