The Tigers have a chance to close out the first half with a four-game sweep of the Royals on Sunday at Kauffman Stadium. If they get it, they'll have dealt a severe blow to the division title hopes of the second-place Royals, who enter the series finale 7 1/2 games back in the American League Central standings.
Tigers starter Justin Verlander will attempt to end a disappointing first half on a positive note. Even though Verlander is just 8-7 this season with an uncharacteristically high 4.84 ERA, he hasn't lost since June 16 -- against Kansas City.
In his last start, Verlander allowed five runs to the Dodgers in the first inning before bouncing back nicely. In the next five innings, he was a completely different pitcher, keeping Los Angeles off the scoreboard from that point on in earning the win.
Keeping the Royals at bay early will be important for Verlander, who has struggled to get out of first innings unscathed this year. Seven times this season, opponents have touched him up for at least a run in the first.
"The first innings have been a little bit of an issue," Verlander said.
Verlander will be opposed by veteran Royals lefty Bruce Chen, who hasn't had much work since coming off the disabled list on June 24. Since then, he's pitched just six innings in two relief appearances.
Because of the minimal workload, there could be some rust when Chen makes his first start since April 24 on Sunday.
"Obviously, you're not as sharp as you could be, but I try not to put that in my mind because I have to do my job," Chen said.
Chen began the season in the Royals' rotation, but he was sidelined by a bulging disc in his back for two months. Fatigue could also be a problem for Chen, with a forecasted high of 90 degrees for Sunday, though he said he'll be fine in the heat.
"Ninety degrees doesn't bother me as much as 98 or 100," Chen said. "I'd rather pitch when its hot than when it's cold. ... I think it can be a good thing. The last thing you want is to not be loose."
Tigers: V-Mart ruled out for finale
Detroit has played a vast majority of the past two weeks without Victor Martinez, and it'll have to be without him again for the finale of the first half on Sunday against Kansas City.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus ruled out the slugger, who is dealing with soreness in his right side. J.D. Martinez, who hit .328 in the first half entering Saturday's game, has made Victor Martinez's absence a bit more tolerable.
Detroit's two largest scoring outputs -- 14 runs on Tuesday against the Dodgers, then 16 runs on Thursday against the Royals -- came with Victor Martinez on the bench.
Royals: Cain's legs a concern
There's been no decision about whether Lorenzo Cain will be in the Royals' outfield on Sunday. He started Saturday night's game despite some concern over the condition of his legs.
Cain was slowed down on Friday night to the extent that manager Ned Yost moved him from center field to right after three innings.
"Everybody's worn down and beat up this time of year," Yost said. "His legs were just worn out. He couldn't get his legs loose. You can tell when he was running in the outfield."
Cain has had leg injury issues before, notably in 2012, and since then the Royals have watched him closely, while occasionally giving him days off.
"The trainers are on top of him," Yost said. "He was giving it all he had, his legs just weren't [good]."
Left fielder Alex Gordon has been out of the starting lineup because of a sprained wrist.
• The Tigers' 28-15 record on the road leads the Majors.
• Billy Butler has a .434 batting average with five doubles, two homers, nine walks and 14 RBIs against Verlander. Salvador Perez is batting .467 against him.
Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.