(Sports Network) - The Detroit Tigers will ask Justin Verlander to play the role of stopper when the slumping club plays the second of three consecutive meetings with the Kansas City Royals tonight at Kauffman Stadium.
Eight losses in a 10-game span from May 21-June 1 pushed the second-place Tigers further back of the first-place Minnesota Twins in the American League Central standings before the team temporarily righted the ship with back-to- back home wins over the lowly Cleveland Indians on Wednesday and Thursday. Detroit failed to build off those two needed victories in last night's clash against the Royals, however, with Kansas City using a 13-hit attack to come through with a 7-3 decision.
The Royals reached Detroit starter Max Scherzer (2-5) for five runs and nine hits over five innings, with Jason Kendall going 3-for-3 with three RBI to lead the charge. Scott Podsednik added two hits, including an RBI single, in three at-bats and scored three times for Kansas City, with David DeJesus knocking in a pair of runs in the win.
Kansas City also received a solid showing out of starter Bruce Chen (2-0), who held the Tigers scoreless over the first five innings. The journeyman lefty was removed after walking Magglio Ordonez and giving up a single to Miguel Cabrera to begin the sixth, and Brennan Boesch followed with a three-run homer off Kyle Farnsworth to spoil the shutout bid.
"I didn't want any of those guys to cost me the game, so I pitched to them extremely carefully," Chen said of Ordonez and Cabrera. "They're good hitters and they're tough on left-handers because they're right-handed hitters and they can go the opposite way."
Detroit, now 3 1/2 games back of the Twins, will be hoping Verlander can continue his career success against the Royals in tonight's game. The All-Star pitcher owns a 9-2 record with a 2.58 earned run average in 15 lifetime starts against Kansas City and has a 1.72 ERA over nine previous visits to Kauffman Stadium, where he's 5-2 all-time.
Verlander was overly sharp in his only prior start against the Royals this season, however. That came in his season debut and took place in Kansas City on April 5, with the flame-throwing righty surrendering four runs in a five- inning no-decision.
The 27-year-old also comes into this outing having lost each of his past two starts, although he pitched well in a 4-1 setback to Oakland on Memorial Day. Verlander lasted seven innings that day and allowed three runs while striking out eight.
He'll be opposed tonight by Luke Hochevar, who's compiled a 5-3 record with a 5.10 ERA in what's been an inconsistent season for the former No. 1 overall pick.
Hochevar put together two outstanding efforts in wins over Cleveland and Texas on May 20 and 26, respectively, yielding a total of five runs and 10 hits over a combined 17 innings. The right-hander threw seven frames and struck out seven in Monday's start against Anaheim, but surrendered five runs on nine hits and was stuck with a loss in a 7-1 verdict.
The former University of Tennessee standout is 2-2 with a 5.23 ERA over six career appearances (five starts) against Detroit and defeated the Tigers in the Motor City on April 12, although he allowed five runs (four earned) in five innings.
Detroit won two of three games from the Royals at Kauffman Stadium from April 5-8, but Kansas City holds a 4-3 edge thus far in the season series.