4:08 PM EST – Line: Detroit -127
With the finish line in sight, baseball is never more interesting than it is at the moment, as a plethora of postseason hopefuls frantically race towards the postseason. Today’s meeting between the Kansas City Royals and the Detroit Tigers is one such matchup, as the former continues to lead the latter by two games in the American League Central. Just four months ago this race would have seemed improbable, but that is why they play the games folks. Credit Ned Yost and his staff in Kansas City (79-62), who are on the verge of their first division crown since 1989. In his fourth season on the bench since arriving midway through the 2010 campaign, Yost has slowly built this team into a competitive group. Since the All-Star Break, they are a stellar 32-17, and have surged into the month of September as winners of five of their last six contests. Tonight’s outing is the first of a crucial three-game set with the Tigers, followed by another three-game series in two weeks. Needless to say, the division could be decided here.
Kansas City comes into tonight’s tilt fresh off the heels of a 2-1 series victory over the New York Yankees which culminated in a 2-0 shutout victory Sunday Night. After retiring Yankees’ Shortstop Derek Jeter was honored before the game, the Royals went about their business, efficiently dispatching the hosts in a low-scoring affair. Starting pitcher Yordano Ventura (12-9, 3.25 ERA) tossed six scoreless innings, yielding just three hits, while striking out a pair of Yanks and walking four more. Relievers Aaron Crow, Kelvin Herrera, and Wade Davis proceeded to own the following three innings, allowing one hit with three strikeouts. Offensively, Yost’s charges did their damage in the 2nd and 3rd Innings, continuing to utilize the small ball approach that has wrought so much success this season; Josh Willingham scored in the 2nd via a throwing error, while Alex Gordon reached home courtesy of Eric Hosmer’s RBI Single in the 3rd. Taking the mound tonight will be Jeremy Guthrie (10-10, 4.31 ERA), who is looking to build off of a solid performance against the Rangers in which he allowed just one run in seven innings of a 2-1 loss in which he received a no-decision. The right-hander has faced the Tigers on two occasions this season, experiencing contrasting results; in 16-4 beatdown back on July 10th, Guthrie was tagged for eight runs in just over four innings, but permitted just one over 6.2 innings of work in a 2-1 win on June 28th, which the last time he threw at Comerica Park.
Meanwhile, after yet again looking the class of the American League Central for the majority of the season, the Detroit Tigers (78-65) have been an inconsistent mess over the last two months. Brad Ausmus’s club stumbled out of the All-Star Break with a 15-21 mark, opening the door for their opponent tonight to steal away their waning division lead. However, the bells of urgency have finally sounded in the Tigers’ clubhouse for they have now won ten of their last fifteen outings, the most recent being a 6-1 Interleague duel with the Giants, helping them to avoid a series sweep. With all that said, the opportunity to achieve a fourth consecutive division crown is within their grasp, for Detroit will face Kansas City six times over the course of the final 21 games. Failing to surpass them could prove costly for they currently trail the Seattle Mariners for the final Wild Card in the American League by a half-game.
Sunday’s 6-1 victory over San Francisco helped the Tigers save some face after dropping the previous two meetings in the three-game series, and it was their bats that did the trick. On the day, the hosts accumulated a dozen hits with reigning MVP Miguel Cabrera leading the charge a 2-for-4 performance in which belted his 22nd homer of the season, along with his 98th, 99th, and 100th RBIs. Torii Hunter (74), Ian Kinsler (78), and Victor Martinez (95) each drove in a run as well, with the latter two each contributing with a double. On the mound, Kyle Lobstein (1-0, 2.78 ERA), earned the first victory of his career, allowing one run on four hits over 5.2 innings of work, in which he struck out three Giants and walked a pair. Perhaps tonight’s starter, Justin Verlander (12-12, 4.80 ERA), will draw some inspiration from his teammate, and finish what has been a very uneven season on a strong note. The former Cy Young-winner simply hasn’t been the dominant hurler that he’s been in the past, and his season-long malaise was a huge reason why management felt the need to acquire a pitcher the quality of David Price at the Trade Deadline. Since going 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA in 2011, his Opponent’s’ Batting Average, WHIP and ERA have inflated gradually, while his K/9 Innings and K/BB have regressed significantly. The left-hander was hammered in his last start, a 7-0 loss at Cleveland, yielding seven runs in 6.2 innings of work. Verlander hasn’t been very good against the Royals of late either; in his past two starts against Kansas City he has posted a bloated 8.03 ERA in a pair of losses.