(Sports Network) - According to Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland, starter Rick Porcello may be coming off one of the best starts of his young career.
That's high praise for the young hurler, who tries to win six straight starts for the first time in his career tonight in the opener of a three-game series versus the baby-faced Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
Porcello won all five of his outings in July to match his career-high winning streak first set from May 5-27, 2009 during his rookie year. He ended his month by beating the Angels on Friday, giving up two runs on five hits over eight innings, striking out six to earn some positive words from Leyland.
"It might be the best game I've seen him pitch since he's been in the big leagues," said Leyland of Porcello, who improved to 11-6 with a 4.50 earned run average this year.
The 22-year-old right-hander's current win streak includes a win at Kansas City on July 8 as he gave up three runs over 5 1/3 innings. Only one of those runs were earned.
Porcello will be facing a Royals lineup tonight that is expected to feature yet another young call-up in second baseman Johnny Giavotella, who had his contract purchased from Triple-A Omaha following Thursday's 9-4 win over the Orioles.
Giavotella was batting .339 with nine home runs, 33 doubles and 72 RBI in 109 games with Omaha this season and is likely to go right into the starting lineup. Kansas City has already infused a pair of young and talented prospects onto its roster with first baseman Eric Hosmer and third baseman Mike Moustakas.
With the addition of Giavotella, the entire expected starting infield, including shortstop Alcides Escobar, is under the age of 25.
Giavotella's addition should push Chris Getz into a backup role even after the latter came up with a two-run single to highlight Kansas City's big sixth inning versus Baltimore yesterday. The Royals plated six runs in the frame to help take the rubber match of the three-game set.
Yamaico Navarro, who could be optioned to make room for Giavotella on the roster, drove in three runs, Billy Butler had two RBI and Alex Gordon went 4- for-5 with two runs scored for the Royals, who have won two straight and five of their last seven.
"We had opportunities to score some runs early and didn't take them," said Royals manager Ned Yost. "But we were able to pull things together there in the sixth and give us the lead. The bullpen did the rest."
Taking the hill for the Royals will be Felipe Paulino, who avoided a third straight losing start on Saturday at Cleveland. After allowing four runs in his both of his setbacks, the right-hander hurled six scoreless frames and worked around four hits and two walks in his club's 5-2 loss.
"Paulino threw the ball great," Yost said. "His fastball had great life on it and good slider and he mixed in some good curveballs and changeups."
Paulino, 27, is 1-4 with a 3.51 ERA in 11 games since joining the Royals from the Rockies and will face the Tigers for the first time in his career.
Detroit comes to town having had a three-game win streak snapped yesterday with a 5-2 loss to the Tigers. Brad Penny took the defeat after giving up five runs -- four earned -- on 11 hits and three walks in 6 2/3 innings.
"My line was a lot worse than I threw today," said Penny. "We want to win every game, but we did beat a good team two out of three."
The Tigers are still three games up on the Indians for first place in the American League Central and will visit Cleveland during the middle leg of this nine-game road trip that starts tonight.
The Tigers have won six of nine over the Royals this year and have won five of their past seven trips to Kansas City.