Preview: Royals face Verlander in opener of Tigers series

The Kansas City Royals might not catch the first-place Detroit Tigers in the AL Central, but they remain a postseason contender.

Looking to continue their season-long

success against Justin Verlander, the surging Royals try for a third

consecutive victory overall and against the Tigers on Friday night at

Comerica Park.

Kansas City (77-69) has not been to

the playoffs since winning the 1985 World Series, but it has won 13 of 18

and is firmly entrenched in the wild-card race.

“We’re playing good baseball right

now,” James Shields told the Royals’ official website after he pitched

eight strong innings in a 6-2 win at Cleveland on Wednesday. “We’ve got a

lot of character and heart on this team. We’re going to try to be in it

until the end.”

Kansas City has shown its mettle by

going 9-7 this season against Detroit (84-62), which it trails by seven

games in the Central. The Royals have lost two straight at Comerica but

did take two of three from the Tigers at home last weekend.

They had four runs and eight hits in

seven innings off Verlander (12-11, 3.64 ERA) during a 4-3 win Saturday.

The right-hander was 15-2 with a 2.73 ERA in 23 starts against Kansas

City prior to this season but has lost each of his last three starts

versus the Royals with a 4.79 ERA.

Detroit has dropped all of Verlander’s

five starts in the season series, though he pitched at least seven

innings and gave up two or fewer runs in three of them.

“Obviously, they have a good team,” he said.

The Tigers have lost Verlander’s last six outings overall, during which he’s 0-3 with a 4.17 ERA.

“I want to build on the positives and

I feel like I made progress (the last two starts),” he said. “That

doesn’t mean I expect to throw a shutout next time.”

Eric Hosmer is 6 for 16 with a homer

and two doubles versus Verlander this year. He’s batting .408 with a

home run against Detroit and has 11 RBIs in his last 13 games overall.

Billy Butler went 2 for 11 as Kansas

City took two of three from the Indians this week, but he’s 7 for 12

with four walks against Verlander in 2013.

The Royals’ Bruce Chen (7-2, 2.79)

allowed a two-run homer to Jose Iglesias and four other hits in seven

innings of a 5-2 win over Detroit on Sunday. He has gone 2-0 with a 2.41

ERA in his last three overall starts.

“He changes speeds and got us out in

front a lot,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “You know what you’re

going to get with him.”

The left-hander tries to build on

that last outing while hoping for a better performance than his most

recent at Comerica, in which he gave up six runs and eight hits in 5 1/3

innings of a 6-3 loss Aug. 18.

In the hunt for a second straight

Triple Crown, Miguel Cabrera hit a two-run homer off Chen in the home

victory but went hitless against him Sunday.

Cabrera is 3 for his last 23 with no extra-base hits and three RBIs.

The Tigers won their second in a row Wednesday, 1-0 over the Chicago White Sox to conclude a 4-5 road trip.