Here come the Royals

Kansas City’s prosperous start to this month has helped add to its slim edge atop the AL Central. The Royals will get the chance to determine how much that lead grows in the next three days.

They’ll also get an earlier start to their pivotal series Monday (3 p.m. pregame, 4:08 first pitch on FOX Sports Detroit) at the Detroit Tigers because of an NFL game at neighboring Ford Field.

Kansas City (79-62) earned its fifth win in six games this month Sunday by topping the New York Yankees 2-0 and remained two games in front of Detroit (78-65), which beat San Francisco 6-1.

The Royals opened September with a one-half game lead.

"This is what it’s all about," Kansas City reliever Aaron Crow told MLB’s official website. "It’s going to be a tough series. We know they have a good team. We’re just going to go in there and take care of business."

The Royals will face Detroit six times in their final 21 games, and the Tigers are also chasing the two AL wild-card leaders. They’re just one-half game behind Seattle for the second spot.

Sunday’s win — its 10th in 15 games — allowed Detroit to avoid a sweep. Despite reportedly playing with a bone spur in his right ankle, Miguel Cabrera hit his third homer in two days – a two-run shot – and added an RBI single.

"You know what, we have 20-some games left. Out of those, we have six more left against the team that’s ahead of us," designated hitter Victor Martinez told MLB’s official website. "It’s not a secret. We are in a tough spot right now. … Every pitch, every at-bat counts from here on. We’ll see what happens."

The opener could be decided by the performances of a pair of inconsistent pitchers, Detroit’s Justin Verlander (12-12, 4.80 ERA) and Jeremy Guthrie (10-10, 4.31).

Verlander was charged with seven runs in 6 2-3 innings in his latest outing Wednesday, a 7-0 loss in Cleveland, after yielding one run in seven innings in a 7-1 win over the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 29.

Guthrie enters this game with more momentum. He permitted one run in seven innings in a 2-1 win Tuesday over Texas after allowing five in six innings in an 11-5 loss to Minnesota on Aug. 28.

The right-hander didn’t get a decision in either game.

Guthrie has also had contrasting results in his two matchups with Detroit this season. He matched a career worst by allowing eight runs in four-plus innings in a 16-4 drubbing at home July 10, and yielded just one in 6 2-3 innings while fanning nine in a 2-1 victory at Comerica Park on June 18.

Verlander, seeking career victory No. 150, is 0-2 with an 8.03 ERA in his last two starts against the Royals after going 1-0 with a 3.46 ERA in his first two this season.

J.D. Martinez will try to provide some support while adding to his .429 career average against Kansas City. Martinez, batting .338 in his last 17 games, is 17 for 33 (.515) with four homers and 13 RBIs in this season’s 10 matchups. He’s 2 for 4 with a solo homer versus Guthrie in 2014.

Salvador Perez is 6 for 9 with three doubles against Verlander this season and 14 for 30 (.467) with seven doubles lifetime. Billy Butler has the most hits off Verlander than any other player, going 34 for 79 (.430).

Butler is also batting .382 (13 for 34) with six doubles in his last nine games versus the Tigers, but he’s 1 for 16 in his past five overall contests.