Tigers-Royals Preview

Justin Verlander was roughed up in his last start in Kansas City

and it didn’t bother him at all.

The Detroit Tigers ace would probably have a much different

reaction if that happened during the heat of a pennant race.

Making his first start at Kauffman Stadium since last month’s

All-Star game, Verlander goes for a sixth consecutive winning

decision against the Royals in Tuesday night’s series opener.

Given the start by AL manager Ron Washington, Verlander was

tagged for five first-inning runs in an 8-0 loss to the NL on July

10. The reigning MVP and Cy Young Award winner’s decision to hit

triple digits on the radar gun instead of treating it like the

first inning of a normal start didn’t produce good results.

“I was able to laugh at it right away,” Verlander said.

“Obviously, you don’t want to go out like that, but I had fun.

That’s why I don’t try to throw 100 (mph) in the first inning, but

this is for the fans. It doesn’t usually work out too well for

me.”

Whatever Verlander (12-7, 2.50 ERA) has done against the Royals

has worked out well considering he’s 14-2 with a 2.36 ERA in 21

starts in the series.

The right-hander, who has won four straight starts at Kansas

City, had won five in a row overall in this AL Central matchup

before yielding two runs in eight innings of Detroit’s 3-2 home

loss May 2. That’s the Tigers’ lone defeat in eight meetings with

the Royals (56-71) this season.

The Tigers (69-58) have a favorable schedule down the stretch

with 10 more games against Kansas City and six apiece against

Minnesota and Cleveland as they try to chase down Central-leading

Chicago.

Detroit hosts the White Sox following this three-game set.

“We have to try to figure out some way to play better than the

White Sox,” manager Jim Leyland said. “They’ve been answering every

bell so far.”

Miguel Cabrera, among the AL’s best with 32 homers and 106 RBIs,

didn’t answer the bell for the first time this season in Sunday’s

5-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels. A sore right ankle kept him

out, but the Tigers slugger is expected back at third base during

this series. He was the designated hitter Friday and Saturday.

“I think this (break) did wonders for him,” Leyland told the

Tigers’ official website. “It has nothing to do with the fact that

we won the game.”

Back from a 2-5 trip, the Royals – who were swept in the Tigers’

last visit April 16-18 – open a 10-game homestand with Luis Mendoza

(7-9, 4.26) on the mound. The right-hander had won back-to-back

starts before walking four in his last outing, Wednesday’s 5-3 loss

at Tampa Bay.

“I struggled with my command,” Mendoza said. “… In baseball,

the base on balls hurt you.”

Mendoza has won three straight home starts and the Royals have

won six of seven at Kauffman Stadium.

Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder has walked five times –

three intentionally – against Kansas City this season while also

driving in nine runs. He’s never faced Mendoza.

Royals DH Billy Butler, one homer shy of 100 for his career, is

a .387 hitter (12 for 31) against Detroit in 2012. He’s 16 for 46

(.348) with two home runs and four doubles versus Verlander.

Left fielder Alex Gordon’s chances of recording a fifth

consecutive two-hit game don’t look good as he’s 7 for 39 (.179)

with 15 strikeouts against the Tigers ace.