If the Kansas City Royals aren’t able to win the American League Central this season, they won’t need to look any further than their struggles inside the division as to why they fell short. After snapping a five-game losing streak Sunday, the Royals hope to move back one game over .500 one day later as they welcome the Detroit Tigers for the opener of a four-game set.
Kansas City avoided getting swept over the weekend when Texas right fielder Shin-Soo Choo lost Lorenzo Cain’s routine fly in the sun with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday, allowing the game-winning run to score in a 4-3 win over the Rangers. The Royals (45-45), who are only two games behind division-leading Cleveland despite not climbing over the break-even mark until June 24, have not been nearly as fortunate inside the Central - going 13-21 against their division rivals. That record includes a 2-4 mark against Detroit, which scored 17 runs over the final two games of its home set against Toronto over the weekend to take the series. The Tigers withstood three homers from the Blue Jays and used three free passes in the 11th inning to pull out a 6-5 victory Sunday, including the first walk-off walk of Miguel Cabrera’s career.
TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, FSN Detroit, FSN Kansas City
PITCHING MATCHUP: Tigers RH Jordan Zimmermann (5-7, 5.87 ERA) vs. Royals LH Jason Vargas (12-3, 2.62)
Zimmermann suffered his third loss during a six-game winless streak July 7 at Cleveland, giving up five runs on eight hits and a walk over three-plus innings. The two-time All-Star is 0-2 with a 9.95 ERA over his last three outings after stringing together four quality starts to begin June (1-1, 2.36). Zimmermann has been masterful against the Royals in his career while going 2-0 with a 1.44 ERA in four appearances (three starts), including 1-0, 1.04 in three games (two starts) in 2016.
Vargas escaped with a no-decision July 5 to extend his unbeaten streak to eight games despite a rare poor performance in Seattle, surrendering a season-high three homers among the six runs he allowed in five frames. Despite the uncharacteristic effort, the 34-year-old first-time All-Star ranks first in the AL in wins and second in ERA. Cabrera is among one of five Detroit regulars hitting over .300 against Vargas, who is 3-4 with a 5.37 ERA in 10 starts against the Tigers.
1. Vargas has the most wins (seven) and lowest ERA (1.84) at home among qualifying pitchers in the AL.
2. Detroit OF J.D. Martinez’s game-tying homer in the eighth Sunday was his 31st of his career in the eighth inning or later, 13 of which have either tied the game or given the Tigers the lead.
3. Prior to dropping two of the three in Kaufman Stadium to Texas over the weekend, the last time Kansas City lost a home series was May 29-31 against Detroit.
PREDICTION: Royals 4, Tigers 2