An outstanding stretch by their rotation has the Detroit Tigers on the verge of their longest home winning streak in 64 years.
Considering his history there against the Kansas City Royals, Justin Verlander appears to have a decent chance to extend that run to 11 in a row in the opening game of Friday’s doubleheader.
Following its 4-1 victory over in Thursday’s series opener, Detroit starters have compiled a 1.02 ERA during the team’s run at Comerica Park, yielding nine runs and 46 hits over 70 2-3 innings. The AL Central-leading Tigers (71-49), who moved 6 1-2 games ahead of idle Cleveland and 8 1-2 in front of Kansas City, haven’t won 11 straight at home since Aug. 12-29, 1949.
They’ll attempt to reach that mark behind Verlander (12-8, 3.57 ERA), who gave up four runs over seven innings before leaving without a decision in a 5-4 loss at Yankee Stadium on Sunday.
“It was a little bit frustrating,” said Verlander, whose nine strikeouts were his most since May 27. “A little bit inconsistent.”
While the ace right-hander has battled through an uncharacteristically up-and-down season, he’s been solid at home against the Royals. Verlander has struck out 68 over 67 2-3 innings while going 6-0 with a 2.93 ERA in 10 career home starts against the Royals, who are batting .217 against him.
He’s also 15-3 with a 2.74 ERA in 26 starts overall versus the Royals, though one of those defeats came in his last outing against them. Verlander fanned only three while yielding six runs – five earned – and eight hits over 5 2/3 innings in a 6-5 loss at Kansas City on July 20.
Billy Butler went 1 for 3 in that contest and should be happy about seeing Verlander since he’s hitting .424 with two homers in 59 career at-bats against him – the highest average of anyone with at least 22 at-bats against the 2011 AL Cy Young Award winner.
Kansas City has gone 1 for 19 with runners in scoring position during its three-game skid after getting 14 hits in 42 such opportunities in the four games to close out a 17-3 surge.
“We had a good scouting report today,” Kansas City’s Alex Gordon said. “When you’re not hitting doubles and home runs, you’ve got to make something happen.”
The Royals counter Verlander with Danny Duffy (0-0, 4.91), who gave up two runs and six hits over 3 2/3 innings in a 5-2 win over Minnesota in his season debut Aug. 7. The left-hander is 0-3 with a 5.16 ERA in four career starts against the Tigers.
Kansas City will give the ball to right-hander James Shields (7-8, 3.33) in Game 2.
Shields, who held Boston to two earned runs over seven innings in beating Boston 4-3 on Sunday for his third win in four starts, is 4-0 with a 2.23 ERA in his last seven road outings since losing at Houston on May 22. He’s also 3-0 with a 2.90 ERA in five career starts in Detroit.
Miguel Cabrera has homered off Shields this season and is 15 for 35 (.429) with two homers lifetime.
Teammate Prince Fielder is 5 for 14 against Shields and homered for the first time since July 24 on Thursday to extend his hitting streak to nine games. Andy Dirks matched a career high with four hits and is 9 for 17 in his last five against the Royals.
Jose Alvarez (1-2, 5.03) is scheduled to make his first start since July 1 for the Tigers in Game 2. The rookie left-hander had allowed nine runs over 8 2/3 innings in his last two starts before getting sent down to Triple-A Toledo.