The Kansas City Royals are riding high on a seven-game win streak, but they can be forgiven if they approach their next series with some caution.
The visiting Royals are 0-5 against the first-place Detroit Tigers this year and have had trouble with Monday night’s scheduled starter, the struggling Justin Verlander.
Kansas City (36-32) begins this four-game set trying to cut into Detroit’s 1 1/2-game AL Central lead. The Royals are enjoying their longest win streak since a nine-game run July 23-Aug. 1.
The Tigers have outscored the Royals 32-12. Victor Martinez (8 for 19) and Ian Kinsler (9 for 22) have done some of the major damage in the season series for Detroit (36-29), combining for five doubles, two homers and seven RBIs.
Verlander (6-6, 4.61 ERA) is 1-0 with a 3.46 ERA in two starts against the Royals this year, and 17-5 with a 2.89 ERA in 31 in his career versus them.
The right-hander could be vulnerable Monday with his highest ERA in six years. He fell to 1-4 with a 7.39 ERA in his last five outings after giving up a season-high seven earned runs over 5 2-3 innings in Wednesday’s 8-2 loss at the Chicago White Sox.
"I mean it is troublesome, yeah, but just need to continue to work on what I’ve been working on," he said.
Two Royals hitters who figure to trouble him are Billy Butler and Salvador Perez. Butler is a .432 hitter off Verlander and Perez is 12 for 27 with seven doubles and a homer.
Perez is 13 for 34 during a nine-game hitting streak after going 2 for 3 with a three-run homer in Sunday’s 6-3 win over the White Sox. Kansas City outscored Chicago 22-6 in sweeping the three-game set.
"We’re getting off to early leads," said first baseman Eric Hosmer, who was 4 for 12 with a homer and five RBIs over the weekend. "We’re giving our pitchers breathing room early. The way they have been throwing for us all year they have been lights out. Now to give them nice breathing room early and get some leads and not let them to be fine with their pitches and let them go out there and let the defense work."
Detroit is 12-7 against left-handed starters as it gets ready to face Jason Vargas (6-2, 3.30) for the third time this year. Vargas is 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA in the first two outings, with Kinsler going 4 for 6 with a homer.
Vargas is 2-0 in six road starts with a 1.60 ERA that ranks fifth in baseball.
The Tigers won for the third time in four games, 4-3 over Minnesota on Sunday. Torii Hunter scored the winning run on J.D. Martinez’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth.
"It’s not over until the last out is made and we kept battling," Hunter said.
Detroit captured the final two games of the weekend set. Victor Martinez was 5 for 8 with three RBIs in those wins and Kinsler was 5 for 10 with three RBIs.