The Royals open perhaps the most important three-game series in a generation Monday in Detroit.
A good showing against the Tigers could help the Royals take a giant step toward their first division title since 1985.
Here are the tentative pitching matchups:
Monday: Jeremy Guthrie vs. Justin Verlander
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Tuesday: Jason Vargas vs. Max Scherzer
Wednesday: James Shields vs. Rick Porcello
It wasn’t all that long ago that the sight of Verlander on the mound would have made Royals fans queasy. But it’s been a tough season for Verlander, who is 12-12 with a 4.80 ERA.
Verlander, a former MVP and Cy Young Award winner, has said his goals are simplified.
“Pitching well — good starts,” Verlander said. “Helping us get to the playoffs.”
In June, the Royals roughed up Verlander at Comerica Park. He allowed seven runs and 12 hits in six innings. The next day, Scherzer gave up 10 runs on 10 hits in four innings.
In 16 starts since the start of June, Verlander has a 5.45 ERA. Last month, he missed a start because of shoulder soreness. In three starts since then, he has a 5.12 ERA.
Still, Verlander was encouraged by his last outing on Wednesday.
“The arm strength felt better than it has the last two games,” he said. “I felt it was better the entire game, which is a good sign for me. The results aren’t what I would have liked, but I definitely felt better.”
Verlander pitched seven innings and reached 95 mph in his final inning.
“In the last inning, I threw some of my best fastballs of the game,” he said.
Guthrie, in two starts against the Tigers this season, has a 7.59 ERA.
In the other games:
Jason Vargas has a 4.74 ERA in three starts vs. the Tigers. Scherzer has a 7.50 ERA in two starts against KC.
James Shields has three starts vs. Tigers and has a 5.49 ERA. Porcello has a 1.93 ERA in two starts against the Royals.
Seattle’s Felix Hernandez is the first pitcher in team history with more than 200 innings pitched and more than 200 strikeouts in six seasons. Randy Johnson did it five times.
Phillies center fielder Ben Revere has the NL lead in batting average (.316). If maintained, that would be the lowest mark to secure a NL batting crown since 1988 when Tony Gwynn hit .313, the lowest average ever for an NL batting champion.
Infielder Kelly Johnson became the first person to play for all five teams in the current AL East when he entered a game on Tuesday as a defensive replacement for the Orioles. Johnson played for the Blue Jays in 2011-12, the Rays in 2013, started 2014 with the Yankees, was traded to the Red Sox on July 31 and to the Orioles on Aug. 31.
If the Orioles’ Nelson Cruz (36 homers) finishes the season leading the majors in homers, Baltimore would join the 1936-37 Yankees (Lou Gehrig/Joe DiMaggio), 1987-88 A’s (Mark McGwire/José Canseco) and the 1993-94 Giants (Barry Bonds/Matt Williams) as the only big-league teams to have different players lead the big-leagues in homers in successive seasons. Chris Davis hit 53 last year for the Orioles.
Words of wisdom
“From our standpoint, the wins don’t calculate with the payroll.”
Phillies acting president Pat Gillick in an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News
Compiled with the help of baseball reporters around the country