Series Preview: Tigers (50-37) at Royals (47-43)


Following a 5-4 record through Minneapolis, Cleveland and St. Petersburg the Royals (47-43) return home before the All-Star Break. Waiting for Kansas City will be the AL Central leading Tigers (50-37) whom the boys in blue did take three of four from last month.

Salvador Perez’s two-run homer gave KC the lead over Tampa Bay, which they won 5-4. Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With this being the fourth series of 2014, what better time to reach out to Matt Pelc from Motor City Bengals to get a report.

Kings of Kauffman – What in your opinion has been the reason for the streaky play from Detroit the last month or so?
Motor City Bengals – Your guess is as good as mine! It’s hard to put a finger on how they can go from 27-12 through the first 39 games, go 9-20 the next 29, and then roll to a 12-2 stretch. Following that winning stretch, they lost three straight to the last place Tampa Bay Rays at home and then schooled the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers.

One factor that may be the culprit is Brad Ausmus being a rookie manager. While I think he’s done a decent job in his first year, I think a veteran manager might be able to better guide his team through losing streaks better.  Another reason is that it really boils down to the starting rotation. During the 9-20 stretch, everyone except Anibal Sanchez was terrible and then in the 12-2 stretch they were back to what we expect from the Tigers’ rotation. They sunk back into bad habits in the Tampa Bay series, but after Justin Verlander allowed five runs in the first inning on Tuesday, he and Max Scherzer were lights out the rest of the series to go 2-0 against the Dodgers.

KOK – Do the Tigers still need to go out and get a reliable arm for the back of the bullpen?
MCB – Yes. Bullpens all over baseball have been terrible this year, the Tigers being one of the leading offenders. Joe Nathan has pitched a little better recently, but even when he was allowing a run per game and blowing saves, the Tigers had no intention of shelving their high-priced closer.

There’s been talk of bringing back Joaquin Benoit or Huston Street from San Diego. I don’t think either would supplant Nathan or even Joba Chamberlain (who may be the MVP of the Tigers’ bullpen this year after coming in to rather low expectations) as set-up man. But putting them as a seventh inning option or a middle inning guy to get a big out would be a big shot in the arm to the weakest link for the ballclub.

Keep in mind, the Tigers should have Joel Hanrahan coming back at some point within a month. If he’s fully recovered, that adds depth with or without a trade.

KOK – How have fans reacted to the fact the AL Central should probably be locked up by now?
MCB – Well I am not sure it “should probably be locked up by now” because you might be selling your own team short. I was one of a couple voices at Motor City Bengals saying that sure the Tigers are the favorites to win the AL Central again, but it would not shock me if the Royals came up and took that throne away. Even with the 4.5-game lead heading into this four-game series, even if the Tigers win three or four of them, I wouldn’t put a nail in the Royals’ coffin. They, like the Tigers, are very streaky.

As for the fans reacting, there are two segments of Tiger fans: the ones that arrived in 2006 and those that were with them through the dark days of 1989 to 2005. I’m sure with the Royals’ recent success after a long period of futility, you can relate. The post-2006 crowd thinks no one should be able to touch the Tigers and they should waltz through the AL Central. When they falter (as every team does during the 162-game season) its unfathomable and everyone should be traded. More reasoning fans, who watch this team on a nightly basis, know they have flaws that could become fatal flaws, which could open the door for Kansas City or perhaps Cleveland.

So most fans understand the AL Central is much more competitive, and the days of the Tigers winning it by 15 games (in 2011) are over.

KOK – Justin Verlander commented after the A’s trade that they’re still the AL’s best. Do you agree or disagree?
MCB – It’s hard for me to determine a best team in baseball in July. Baseball is so streaky and so many times through the last decade, the best team in July, and on the last day of the regular season, is not the one holding the trophy by the end of October. More to the point of what Verlander said was the A’s made the trade for Samardzija and Hammel with the Tigers in mind. After beating Oakland two years in a row in an ALDS Game 5 winner take all game on their home field, it’s kinda hard to argue against JV’s logic. Do I think the A’s are the best team in the AL currently? Yes, but we’ll see if this lasts into October.

KOK – Series prediction for this four-game series
MCB – Boy, when the Royals and Tigers play, expectations are usually thrown out the window. I was amazed at how easily the Tigers dispatched the Royals in KC early this year and was equally amazed at how KC steamrolled in Detroit in the last four-game series.

Knowing that, I don’t think there will be a four-game sweep, but I could see one of the teams winning three of the four. So because of that, I’ll play it safe and say they’ll split.

Probably Pitching Match-ups:
Thursday, 7:10 pm – Drew Smyly/LHP (4-8, 3.89) v. Jeremy Guthrie/RHP (5-7, 4.02)
Friday, 7:10 pm – Anibal Sanchez/RHP (5-3, 3.18) v. Danny Duffy/LHP (5-8, 2.88)
Saturday, 6:10 pm – Rick Porcello/RHP (11-5, 3.53) v. James Shields/RHP (9-4, 3.72)
Sunday, 1:10 pm – Justin Verlander/RHP (8-7, 4.84) v. TBA

Comments on Pitching Match-ups – KC will face the likes of Smyly, Sanchez, Porcello and Verlander this weekend while trying to cut into the Detroit division lead. Guthrie, Duffy, Shields and likely Bruce Chen get the four starts. Jason Vargas will not be making his start on Sunday due to an emergency appendectomy in Tampa on Wednesday morning. His absence will be felt having Chen or whoever face the former Cy Young pitcher to close out the series. The Tigers no doubt have the advantage in starters so hopefully the bats warm up and the team can get to the average bullpen.   

Series Predictions – This season Detroit is 6-3 against Kansas City this season but last time out at Comerica the Royals did take that series. After a thrilling finale at the Trop who knows what will happen, however not knowing if Alex Gordon will be in the lineup will make an impact. Others will have to step up if the team wants to shave games off the deficit. Prediction: I’m going to say that this is a split with each taking two games each.

2014 Meetings:
After losing the first five meetings, the Royals have won took three games against the Tigers in their June series at Detroit.

Franchise History:
In 316 meetings each team has 308 wins apiece since KC joined the AL in 1960, pretty crazy the all-time series is knotted up. Kansas City leads the series 160-144 in the city of fountains which includes a 150-130 mark at Kauffman Stadium.

TV/Radio Coverage:
Fans can tune into FOX Sports Kansas City for three games of the four games (no TV Saturday) with Steve Physioc and Rex Hudler on TV. Joel Goldberg and Jeff Montgomery host Royals Live before and after from Rivals in right field. FOX Sports 1 will have national coverage of series on Saturday night when broadcasting game two from the K. Royals Hall of Famer/2007 Ford C. Frick Award winner Denny Matthews is joined in the booth by Ryan Lefebvre and Steve Stewart will be on the Royals Radio Network (610 Sports Radio in KC) describing the action.

AL Central Standings (July 10):
Detroit Tigers (50-37)
Kansas City Royals (47-43, 4.5 GB)
Cleveland Indians (44-46, 7.5 GB)
Chicago White Sox (44-48, 8.5 GB)
Minnesota Twins (41-49, 10.5 GB)

2014 Series Schedule/Results v. Tigers (DET 6-3)
March 30 – April 2, Comerica Park – L 4-3, L 2-1 F/10, PPD
May 2-4, Kauffman Stadium – L 8-2, L 9-2, L 9-4
June 16-18, Comerica Park – W 11-8, W 11-4, W 2-1, L 2-1
July 10-13, Kauffman Stadium
September 8-10, Comerica Park
September 19-21, Kauffman Stadium

Game Notes:
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals