Tigers-Royals Preview

Coming off a successful homestand against two of the better

teams in the AL, the last thing Detroit manager Jim Leyland wants

to see is his Tigers take a step back versus one of the league’s

worst.

With Rick Porcello trying to win a career-high sixth consecutive

start, the first-place Tigers look to continue their recent success

over the Royals on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium.

After a 12-7 loss to Los Angeles on July 28, Detroit (59-52)

took two of the next three from the Angels before winning two of

three from first-place Texas this week.

“That’s pretty good,” Leyland said.

Though the Tigers fared well on that seven-game homestand and

own a three-game lead in the Central, Leyland knows his team can’t

get comfortable – even with Kansas City on deck. Detroit has won

five of six from the last-place Royals (48-63), including three of

four at Kauffman Stadium from July 7-10.

The Royals, however, have won five of seven overall while

batting .309.

“Everybody thinks you’re playing Kansas City, you’re supposed to

win,” Leyland told the Tigers’ official website. “It doesn’t work

that way. We’re very respectful, believe me.”

In the opener, however, it could be the Royals who face the

biggest challenge against Porcello (11-6, 4.50 ERA).

After he went 0-3 with a 10.31 ERA in his final four June

starts, Porcello was 5-0 with a 3.06 ERA in July. He has allowed

two runs and five hits in each of his last two outings, the latest

in eight innings of a 12-2 win over the Angels last Friday.

“I’ve been trying to do a better job of mixing up my pitches,

and I think I’ve been able to keep the batters off balance,”

Porcello said.

Though the right-hander is 1-1 with a 5.23 ERA against the

Royals this season, he’s looking to win a third straight start at

Kauffman Stadium. He allowed one earned run in 5 1-3 innings of a

6-4 win there July 8.

Victor Martinez’s .212 average versus the Royals this year is

his worst against any AL opponent, but he hit .385 with five RBIs

on the recent homestand.

Martinez and the Tigers get their first look this season at

scheduled starter Felipe Paulino (1-4, 3.51), who has received four

runs of support while going 0-2 with a 3.86 ERA in his last three

starts. The right-hander threw six scoreless innings Saturday, but

the bullpen could not hold a one-run lead in a 5-2 loss at

Cleveland.

In his only appearance against Detroit on June 27, 2009, Paulino

allowed a run and three hits while striking out nine in seven

innings of an 8-1 win for Houston.

Paulino looks to help Kansas City to a third straight win after

Alex Gordon matched a career high with four hits and Billy Butler

drove in two runs during Thursday’s 9-4 victory over Baltimore.

Gordon, batting .324 with five RBIs versus Detroit this season,

has hit .474 with three homers and eight doubles in his last nine

games overall.

“He’s as close as you can get to dominating right now,” manager

Ned Yost said.

Butler has batted .405 during a 10-game hitting streak while

driving in 19 runs – most in the majors since July 24. He’s hitting

.320 (8 for 25) with two doubles versus Porcello.