KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Maybe the Detroit Tigers have to worry more about a team farther down in the division standings after sweeping the club that is right behind them.
The Tigers have won four straight heading into Monday night’s road matchup with a Kansas City Royals team seeking its first six-game win streak in two seasons.
Detroit (35-26) extended its lead in the AL Central to a season-high 5 1/2 games after sweeping Cleveland at home over the weekend. All three Tigers starters won as they posted a 2.37 ERA.
Kansas City (28-32), meanwhile, has turned in a 1.00 ERA during this five-game run. The Royals haven’t gained much ground and are 6 1/2 games behind Detroit.
This surge for Kansas City began when Jeremy Guthrie (6-3, 3.66 ERA) ended a four-start winless stretch by giving up one run over six innings in Wednesday’s 4-1 victory over Minnesota.
The right-hander improved to 4-1 with a 2.78 ERA in five starts at home, where he is limiting hitters to a .205 average.
Guthrie went 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA in two home starts against Detroit last year. Miguel Cabrera is 9 for 26 with two homers against him, Jhonny Peralta is 7 for 21 and Torii Hunter is 8 for 26.
Cabrera is a .366 hitter at Kansas City, where he batted .417 in nine games last year.
Guthrie will be backed by a bullpen that has not allowed a run in 17 2/3 innings in the Royals’ past six games.
Kansas City was locked in a scoreless affair Sunday against Houston before scoring twice in the eighth inning for a 2-0 victory. Manager Ned Yost believed his relievers would give his club every chance to break through after Luis Mendoza departed after seven innings.
“I’m fully stocked,” Yost said. “It doesn’t matter how long this game goes, I’ve got enough pitching to wait it out.”
The Tigers and Royals split two games in Detroit from April 24-25 in their lone previous 2013 series, with Kansas City’s bullpen tossing 6 1/3 scoreless innings.
Although the Tigers are second in the majors with 5.2 runs per game, they have had trouble scoring with Doug Fister (5-3, 3.27) on the mound. Detroit has no runs over Fister’s last 16 1/3 innings.
He will start the opener of this three-game set after taking a shutout into the ninth inning Wednesday before surrendering all three runs in a 3-0 defeat to Tampa Bay.
“There always seems to be one guy who takes the brunt of these stretches – we go a bunch of games where we can’t get him any runs – and Doug is getting that right now,” catcher Alex Avila said.
The right-hander is 2-3 with a 3.97 ERA in seven starts against the Royals.
Salvador Perez and Eric Hosmer have combined to go 4 for 19 against Fister, but are surging now. Perez is 8 for 18 during this win streak while Hosmer is 7 for 13 over his last four contests.
Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar, hitting .191 over his past 32 games, was given Sunday off after playing in the first 59 games.