Tigers, Royals open four-game series
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A losing streak temporarily doused Kansas City's postseason aspirations and dropped the Royals one game below .500.
However, all is sunny for the Royals as they prepare for a four-game series against the Detroit Tigers that begins Monday.
Lorenzo Cain got a sun-aided, run-producing single with two outs in the ninth inning Sunday, lifting the Royals to a 4-3 win over the Texas Rangers.
"We definitely needed this one after losing five in a row," Cain said. "It was definitely tough to go through that stretch. To get a win here and not get swept was huge. Hopefully we can keep it going and get on another run."
Not only did the Royals win, but the American League Central-leading Cleveland Indians were swept at Oakland, and the second-place Minnesota Twins lost 5-3 to the Houston Astros. The Royals trail the Indians by two games and the Twins by a half-game.
The Royals (45-45) will round out their homestand by facing the fourth-place Tigers, who beat the Toronto Blue Jays 6-5 in 11 innings Sunday, and the last-place Chicago White Sox, who have lost four in a row.
Kansas City had lost 12 straight to the Rangers before the victory Sunday.
"It was a big win for us," Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield said. "We needed that going into some division games. We were fortunate to catch a break at the end, but we'll take it.
"When you go up against the sun, the sun wins most of the time. Sometimes the ball just gets in a place where you can't do anything about it."
The Tigers (41-49) took the final two games against the Blue Jays in the three-game weekend series at Detroit.
"Winning two straight doesn't really do anything," Tigers catcher Alex Avila said. "We have a game tomorrow in Kansas City and four games against Kansas City. They're obviously ahead of us, so it's an important series.
"It will be tough. They've got some good guys on the mound against us for that series. But this series is done, it doesn't matter now. Next series is a big one, so we've got to make sure we play well."
The Tigers have won four of six against the Royals this season, including two of three in May in Kansas City, but have not met their expectations.
"We've got to do it consistently," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "That's kind of been our downfall the first half. We haven't done it consistently. We haven't strung together some wins, won eight out of 10 or anything like that. That's what we have to do. We have the capability. Now we have to do it. We have to perform."
Tigers right-hander Jordan Zimmermann will start the opener at Kauffman Stadium. Zimmermann is 5-7 with a 5.87 ERA in 17 starts, having allowed 114 hits while walking 30 and striking out 67 in 95 innings.
Zimmermann is 0-3 in his past six starts since a June 3 victory. In his last start before the All-Star break, he lasted just three innings, giving up five runs on eight hits and a walk on July 7 at Cleveland. This will be his first start against the Royals this season.
Zimmermann is 2-0 with a 1.44 ERA in four career games against the Royals. He has struck out 24 and walked two in 25 innings. No Royal has homered off Zimmermann. Alcides Escobar is 3-for-10 and Eric Hosmer 2-for-10 vs. Zimmermann. No other Kansas City batter has more than eight at-bats against him.
All-Star left-hander Jason Vargas (12-3, 2.62 ERA) will start for the Royals. He tops the American League in wins and is second in ERA. He is 7-1 this season at Kauffman Stadium, the top home win total in the league, and his home ERA (1.84) is also the best in the AL.
This will be his 11th career start against Detroit, but his first since 2014. He is 3-4 with a 5.37 ERA against the Tigers.
Updated July 17, 2017