Preview: Chen, Royals look for series win over first-place Tigers

With Miguel Cabrera dealing with nagging injuries, the Detroit Tigers are considering giving their superstar time off down the stretch to rest.

A day game after a night game might seem like a good idea for a break, but manager Jim Leyland may want to keep Cabrera in the lineup given his history against Kansas City Royals scheduled starter Bruce Chen.

The AL Central-leading Tigers again look to rough up Chen in Sunday’s series finale in Kansas City.

Cabrera has gone 2 for 5 with three RBIs and four walks in two games after missing four of five contests with an abdominal strain. Leading the majors in batting average (.356) and RBIs (133), Cabrera is trying to chase down a second consecutive triple crown. Detroit (82-60), however, may want Cabrera to take it easy over the next three weeks so he can be healthy for the playoffs.

The 2012 AL MVP might not have to lobby too hard to get in Sunday’s lineup.

Cabrera was 2 for 2 with a two-run homer against Chen (6-2, 2.81 ERA) in the left-hander’s only start against the Tigers this season, a 6-3 loss on Aug. 18. Cabrera’s five career homers off Chen are tied for his most against any pitcher, and his .441 average in 34 career at-bats is his best against anyone he has at faced at least 40 times.

Cabrera, though, isn’t the only Tiger that regularly frustrates Chen.

Austin Jackson had two hits off Chen last month, and is 8 for 19 with a pair of doubles against him since the start of last season. The center fielder is batting .458 with six RBIs and five runs in his last six games for the Tigers, who own a 5 1/2-game lead over second-place Cleveland.

The Royals (74-68), winners of 10 of 14, are 3 1/2 games back in the wild-card race.

“I’ve been here for the last four years and it is very special what we’re doing,” Chen told the Royals’ official website. “We’re trying to do everything we can to win and it’s very fun. We want to keep it going, so come the end of September we will be playing and be very close or maybe ahead. You never know what is going to happen.”

Salvador Perez hit a two-run homer off Justin Verlander in Saturday’s 4-3 win, and has been instrumental to Kansas City’s playoff push, batting .408 with six home runs and 19 RBIs in his last 15 games. The All-Star catcher is 3 for 9 against scheduled starter Doug Fister (12-7, 3.66) this season.

After yielding season highs of seven runs and 13 hits in five innings of a 14-4 loss to Oakland on Aug. 28, Fister gave up four hits over seven innings in Monday’s 3-0 win at Boston. He struggled with his command, walking four and hitting a batter, but the sinkerballer induced three double plays.

“Keeping the ball down, throwing pitches that I needed to induce the double plays,” the right-hander said was the difference.

Excluding the dud against the Athletics, Fister is 6-1 with a 2.11 ERA since July 12. That stretch includes two starts against the Royals, in which he’s gone 1-0 with a 2.92 ERA.

Chen permitted two runs in six innings in Tuesday’s 4-3 win over Seattle, but didn’t get the decision. He has a 2.31 ERA in his last two starts after recording a 13.00 ERA in losing his previous two outings, which includes getting tagged for six runs over 5 1/3 innings in Detroit last month.