Although the Detroit Tigers are essentially out of the playoff picture, an impressive weekend sweep has the club feeling optimistic.
The Tigers look to win four in a row for the first time in six weeks in Monday night's opener against a possibly weary Kansas City Royals team.
With an 8-1 win over Cleveland on Sunday, Detroit (61-63) outscored the Indians 19-3 in sweeping the three-game set. The Tigers hit .353 as a team, and the starting pitchers posted a 0.82 ERA.
"It seems like we were clicking on all cylinders this weekend,'' Sunday's winning pitcher Justin Verlander said. "If we can keep this up for the rest of the season ... well, never say never. It's a funny game.''
To make things interesting down the stretch and catch AL Central-leading Minnesota, Detroit needs to go on a massive run.
Winning four in a row would be a good start, but the Tigers haven't done that since a five-game run July 5-10. It could be tough for Detroit to notch its fourth straight victory, however, with the way scheduled starter Jeremy Bonderman has been pitching.
Bonderman (6-9, 5.37 ERA) has a 9.39 ERA in losing his last three starts and is trying to avoid dropping four in a row for the first time since July 24-Aug. 9, 2007. In Wednesday's 9-5 loss to the Yankees, the right-hander was knocked around for seven runs and six hits - including three homers - in five innings.
Bonderman has been hurt most by the long ball, allowing 18 homers in 14 starts since June 1, tied for most in the AL. He should have better luck keeping the ball in the yard against a Kansas City team that has the fourth-fewest home runs in the majors (84).
In his only start against Royals on June 6, Bonderman gave up one homer among the 11 hits he allowed and was tagged for seven runs in 5 2-3 innings of a 7-2 loss.
The Tigers have lost four of the last six meetings with the Royals, yielding at least seven runs in those defeats.
Kansas City's Yuniesky Betancourt is batting .344 with a homer and six RBIs against Detroit this year, and is 10 for 21 (.476) lifetime against Bonderman.
The Royals (53-71), winners of five of seven, arrive in Detroit after Sunday's 3-2, 10-inning win over the White Sox. That was the teams' third extra-inning game in less than 24 hours.
"(Monday) will hurt because baseball you play every day and you don't really get that much of a break," Kyle Davies told the Royals' official website. "It's those days that wear on you a little bit."
Bruce Chen (8-6, 4.61) takes the ball in the opener after allowing four runs and 11 hits in 5 2-3 innings in Wednesday's 9-7 win over Cleveland. The left-hander is 3-1 with a 3.97 ERA in his last four starts.
In his lone outing of the season against the Tigers on June 4, Chen gave up two runs and four hits in five innings of a 7-3 win.
Like most pitchers, Chen has had trouble against Miguel Cabrera, the major league leader with 101 RBIs. Cabrera is 5 for 8 with two home runs and a double against Chen, and is batting .378 with three homers and nine RBIs against the Royals this season.