Kansas City's Danny Duffy will be tasked with keeping Miguel Cabrera and company in check Saturday night at Kauffman Stadium while Justin Verlander tries to end his longest ever winless stretch against the Royals.
The Tigers (82-59) suffered a 20-4 loss at Boston on Wednesday, surrendering eight homers in their worst defeat since a 26-5 setback to Kansas City on Sept. 9, 2004. Then they turned around and handed the Royals (73-68) a 16-2 loss on Friday, just their fourth defeat in 13 games.
Kansas City is 4 1/2 games off the pace in the AL wild-card race while Detroit owns a 6 1/2-game edge over Cleveland in the AL Central.
Cabrera was 1 for 3 with two walks and drove in his major league-leading 131st run after missing four of five contests with an abdominal strain. His return seemed to give the rest of the lineup a lift, too, with Omar Infante recording career highs of five hits and six RBIs and Andy Dirks going 5 for 5.
Detroit recorded a season-high 26 hits.
"The hits just fell tonight," said Dirks, who is 27 for 66 (.409) in his last 19 games versus Kansas City. "That's baseball. When I hit it, it just went in the holes."
Duffy (2-0, 1.35 ERA) comes off a disappointing outing, lasting 3 2-3 innings in a 3-1 win versus Seattle on Monday, allowing a run, five hits and four walks while stranding six runners.
"I didn't have it today," Duffy said.
The left-hander had thrown 12 2-3 scoreless innings over his previous two starts, including six innings of one-hit ball in a 2-1 win at Detroit on Aug. 16. He had been 0-3 with a 5.16 ERA in his four previous starts against the Tigers.
Cabrera is 4 for 12 off Duffy and owns a 1.291 on-base plus slugging against lefties this year.
Verlander (12-10, 3.59) was the loser in that Aug. 16 contest despite limiting the Royals to two runs and seven hits over eight innings. He has notched at least one win over Kansas City each of the last seven years but is 0-2 in four starts this year despite a 2.60 ERA. He's 15-4 with a 2.71 ERA in 27 career outings against the Royals.
Verlander is also winless in his last five starts overall, with the Tigers losing each time. He threw seven shutout innings in a 4-0 loss to the Indians on Sunday.
"He pitched great," manager Jim Leyland said of Verlander's first scoreless performance in nine starts. "We just couldn't get the big hit when we really needed it."
Billy Butler is batting .344 over his last 31 games and is 27 for 62 (.435) off Verlander, including 6 for 9 this season.
Detroit's Austin Jackson, who was 3 for 6 with four RBIs Friday, is hitting .380 through his last 17 contests with 17 runs and 14 RBIs.
Tigers top prospect Nick Castellanos is expected to make his first big league start Saturday, according to the team's official website. He went 3 for 4 with a home run and three RBIs while winning MVP honors in the 2012 Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium.