Royals-Tigers Preview

The AL Central won’t be decided this weekend in Detroit, but it already seems like the teams battling at Comerica Park will be vying for that title all season.

David Price matches up against one of his favorite opponents Friday night as the Tigers and Kansas City Royals meet in another early season showdown.

Detroit won its fourth consecutive Central title last season, beating out Kansas City by one game but lost to Baltimore in the division series as the Royals came within one game of winning the World Series.

This season is already shaping up to be another close race with Kansas City (18-10) entering Friday with the slightest of leads over the Tigers (18-11).

These teams split a four-game series at Kauffman Stadium last week as Kansas City took the first two before Price tossed a five-hitter in a 2-1 victory Saturday. He gave up four singles prior to surrendering Lorenzo Cain’s two-out home run in the ninth inning. Price (3-1, 2.93 ERA) struck out three, walked none and recorded 16 of his outs on three pitches or fewer.

”I always want to get 27 outs,” Price said. ”I want that every fifth day.”

That was the latest dominant performance by the left-hander versus the Royals. He’s 2-0 with a 1.16 ERA in five appearances – four starts – for his best ERA against any opponent he’s faced more than once.

Alex Gordon and Kendrys Morales are a combined 4 for 27 against Price.

The Tigers return home after salvaging a split of their 10-game trip with Thursday’s 4-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox. Kyle Lobstein pitched into the eighth inning and Miguel Cabrera scored twice and drove in a run to help Detroit avoid the sweep.

"You don’t want to get swept by anyone and we have Kansas City coming when we get home," third baseman Nick Castellanos said. "So to go back home on a positive note is big."

While the Tigers still rank among the league leaders with a .275 batting average, most of that damage came early in the season. They batted .303 with 14 home runs during an 11-2 start compared to hitting at a .250 clip with 11 homers during a 7-9 stretch.

Detroit’s hitters aren’t too familiar with Yordano Ventura (2-2, 4.94), who makes his first start since serving a seven-game suspension for his role in a brawl with the White Sox. The right-hander last appeared April 29, allowing five runs and four walks over 5 1-3 innings in a 7-5 loss at Cleveland.

Ventura won his only start against the Tigers on June 17, yielding three runs in seven innings of an 11-4 victory at Comerica Park.

Kansas City also has cooled following a fast start, going 11-10 after winning its first seven games, but it’s coming off a 7-4 victory over Cleveland on Thursday. Eric Hosmer hit a three-run homer in the first inning and Mike Moustakas had three hits and two runs.

Hosmer is batting .366 with four homers and 13 RBIs in the last 10 games and is 23 for 53 (.434) over his past 14 against Detroit.

The Royals are 9-0 in series openers, tying the 1983 team mark to start a season.

Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias is unlikely to play Friday after aggravating a groin injury Wednesday.