MLB: Kansas City Royals vs Detroit Tigers Preview, Picks, Predictions

Daniel NorrisThe Detroit Tigers welcome the Kansas City Royals to Comerica Park for a three-game series where both teams find their playoff lives on the line (7.10pm ET Monday).

As the MLB season winds down every game counts, especially for the Detroit Tigers as they try to keep pace with the Cleveland Indians for the top spot in the AL Central. Also hoping to keep pace, with an outside shot to advance as a wildcard team, are the Kansas City Royals. They can’t afford to lose if they want to return to the playoffs, where they would have a shot at defending their World Series championship.

The last time these two teams met, a month ago, the Royals were in a great position, making their way towards a strong playoff push. They were looking like the second best team in the Central behind the Indians. However, a lot can change in a month.

The Royals lost two of three in their season’s first series at Comerica this year, starting a post All-Star break skid that has them looking more like potential spoilers than they are legitimate playoff contenders. Once within striking distance, the Royals have faltered, going from two games above .500 to three games under since the break. They find themselves 7.5 games out of the wildcard, which is being led by the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles. While it’s not an impossible mountain to climb, it doesn’t look good for the chances of the defending World Series champions.

While the playoffs may be out of reach, the Royals have managed to right the ship a little over the past few series. They are playing better, winning six of their last eight after dropping to a season-low seven games under .500. This doesn’t exactly do them any good as it seems it may be too little too late, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t make the road to the postseason just that much more difficult for their divisional rivals.

The Tigers still have their eyes on winning the AL Central, a task made more difficult due to their 4-6 record in the last 10 games. The Tigers remain five games behind the Indians, who have won seven of their last 10 and look to be returning to the form that saw them win 14-straight games earlier this season. For Detroit, if surpassing the Indians isn’t on the cards, the team still has the wildcard. They sit a much more manageable 1.5 games behind the leaders.

The Seattle Mariners who have been one of the hottest teams in baseball over the span of the last 10 games, are right behind Detroit, two games back of the Red Sox. Another series win against the Royals could be crucial for Detroit to avoid losing ground on the leaders or even letting the Mariners overtake them for that top spot.

Game 1 Probable Pitchers: (DET) Daniel Norris vs (KC) Ian Kennedy

The pitching match-ups for this three-game series are intriguing and that all begins with the duo who take the mound in Game 1, Daniel Norris (pictured) for the Tigers and Ian Kennedy for the Royals.

Norris is making just his second start since being sidelined with an injury earlier their season. In his first start back he tossed five strong innings, allowing just one run. He pitched well but was pulled in the sixth after allowing the first three batters to reach base.

A young starter, Norris has minimal experience pitching against this Kansas City line-up as no batter has more than five at-bats against him. He has pitched just 18 innings this year and has 19 strikeouts. He can be a power pitcher but much of what happens Monday will be determined by the first few batters. If he can keep the ball down and out of the zone, Norris should be able to replicate his performance against the Mariners over those first five innings.

Starting opposite him on the mound for the road team is Kennedy, who is coming off his third consecutive quality start. He has pitched just over 19 innings in that span and has just a 0.93 ERA. It is worth noting that Kennedy has been the victim of low run-support as he has no decisions in those last three starts and is winless in each of his last eight.

This will be his third start against the Tigers. Despite not holding a win against the AL Central rivals, the righty has allowed just three earned runs. In his career, he has had mixed results against some of Detroit’s best hitters, allowing Miguel Cabrera to hit .375 and even more impressively, Ian Kinsler to hit .583 with five extra base hits in 12 at-bats.

Our Preview’s Kansas City Royals vs Detroit Tigers Betting Picks

Divisional series always bring with them another level of competition, especially when the playoffs hang in the balance. Kansas City are going to need a little help to get back to the postseason. They have been playing much better lately, scoring four or more runs in five of their last eight games and 21 runs total in their last three. Their trio of stars, Alcides Escobar, who leads the team in hits, Eric Hosmer who leads the team in RBI and Kendrys Morales, who has 19 home runs, have all been contributing big-time offensively. They have been a big part of the reason that the Royals have won six of their last eight.

The Tigers are searching for consistency. They have scored just 14 total runs in their last three, have won just six of their last 12, and have scored four or more runs only seven times during that same stretch. The Tigers have been successful when scoring more than three runs, winning 10 of their last 13 when hitting that mark. Again, they’ve been in a slump but if they can get out of it offensively, they’ll have a great chance to win on Monday night and to take the series as a whole.

The Tigers have got something to play for as well as the better offensive lineup, with guys like Cabrera and Kinsler and Victor Martinez. They also have the all-important home field advantage. So when thinking about this preview’s betting picks, the edge goes to Detroit.