Detroit Tigers (16-9) at Kansas City Royals (14-15), 2:10 p.m. (ET)
05/03/2014 9:53 AM
05/04/2014 9:55 AM
(SportsNetwork.com) - Justin Verlander will attempt to guide the Tigers to their fifth consecutive victory as Detroit closes out its three-game series against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
Verlander aims to repeat the performance of his teammate Drew Smyly, who allowed just two hits over seven scoreless innings to lead the Tigers to a 9-2 victory over Kansas City in the second matchup of the series. Smyly, who was making just his second start of the season, received a great deal of run support, as Torii Hunter hit a three-run homer, Nick Castellanos drove in three and Danny Worth, Ian Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera added one RBI apiece.
Verlander took a no-decision on Tuesday night after holding the White Sox to three runs on six hits over seven innings of work. The six-time All-Star is 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA on the campaign, but he has gone 0-2 with a 6.04 ERA in his last four starts at Kauffman Stadium, where he has not won since April 16, 2012.
"I think I'm still trying to find where exactly I'm at with some things," Verlander said. "I thought I was getting a little bit better every start, and then the schedule has been kind of weird. I didn't' feel like [Tuesday's win against the White Sox] was another step forward, but there's nothing I can do about that."
If Detroit's offense continues to thrive, Verlander will be in great position to end his skid in Kansas City. The Tigers rank second in the majors in batting average at .278 and have outscored their opposition, 26-8, over their last four games. Cabrera has been locked in during the course of his active nine-game hitting streak, batting .400 with 10 runs batted in during that span.
Hunter has recorded a hit in 10-straight games to improve his average to .303.
However, the Tigers could have trouble achieving the same success on Sunday as they face Kansas City's Jason Vargas for the second time this season. The 31- year-old southpaw limited Detroit to just one run in seven innings on April 2 in the first encounter.
Vargas will look to bounce back from his poor performance on Tuesday against Toronto. The Blue Jays managed to tally five runs and 10 hits off of Vargas, marking the first time this season he has surrendered more than two earned runs in a start. Vargas was pulled in the seventh inning after giving up a pair of runs.
"I thought he was okay. Miserable night, rain, cold," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "In the seventh inning, he went back out. There were a number of reasons -- his pitch count was manageable, we had two lefties and two switch-hitters that I'd rather face right-handed than left-handed. He just got a pitch up to Melky Cabrera and Jose Reyes got a pitch that he dumped in the gap there, but other than that, I thought he threw the ball well."
Kansas City is batting only .172 during its current three-game slide, which matches its season-high. On Saturday, Eric Hosmer went 2-for-4 with a run, while Billy Butler and Alex Gordon knocked in one run apiece for the Royals, who have dropped five in a row to Detroit.
Butler is 31-for-71 versus Verlander in his career and Salvador Perez has gone 11-for-24 against the former AL MVP.
Detroit went 3-6 at Kauffman Stadium in 2013.
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