Tigers can wrap up AL Central title in opener with Royals

The Detroit Tigers figure to have the AL Central wrapped up well before the conclusion of their three-game series with the Kansas City Royals.

That doesn't mean that the season-ending set won't have some excitement.

Miguel Cabrera will be on Triple Crown watch as the regular season comes to a close and he seems to be squaring off against the right opponent to pad his numbers. He is a lifetime .325 hitter versus the Royals with 16 homers and 60 RBI in 88 games.

Cabrera leads the AL with a .325 average and 136 RBI. He'll need to go deep in this series as he is tied with the Texas Rangers' Josh Hamilton for the league lead with 43 homers.

The slugger's Tigers have a magic number of one for clinching the AL Central as they lead the Chicago White Sox by three games with three to play. They'll lock up the crown with a win tonight or a loss by the White Sox against the hosting Cleveland Indians.

Prince Fielder smashed his team to a 2-1 win on Sunday, belting a two-run homer in the eighth inning to give Detroit its sixth victory in seven games.

"I'm just glad I was able to help my team," Fielder said.

The duo of Cabrera and Fielder will take their swings tonight against Kansas City's Bruce Chen, who has lost three of his last four decisions and is coming off a setback to the Tigers last Tuesday.

Chen gave up only two runs on 10 hits and three walks in 6 2/3 innings, but the Royals were shut out 2-0. That dropped the lefty to 11-13 with a 5.13 earned run average in 33 starts this season.

"They came ready to play. I left a couple pitches up and they got some base hits," Chen said. "But we played hard and we never gave in."

The 35-year-old is 1-3 with a 3.60 ERA in four starts versus the Tigers this year.

Cabrera is a lifetime .379 hitter versus Chen, adding three homers and seven RBI.

Detroit counters with Rick Porcello, who hasn't won since Aug. 7.

The young righty lost six starts in a row following his last win before logging consecutive no-decisions. He faced the Royals on Wednesday and was charged with four runs on seven hits in four frames of work as the Tigers won 5-4.

Porcello, 23, is 9-12 with a 4.68 ERA in 30 starts this year and holds lifetime numbers of 5-3 with a 4.71 ERA in 14 meetings with the Royals.

He'll try to get on track against a Kansas City club that has lost seven of its past eight and was shelled 15-3 by Cleveland on Sunday. The Indians ran away with things thanks to a 10-run fifth inning.

"There was just nothing we could do," Royals manager Ned Yost said of the Indians' 10-run fifth. "We didn't have any offense up to that point. If the game was closer, we might have been able to take it in another direction."

Alex Gordon crushed a two-run homer and Tony Abreu added an RBI base hit for the Royals, who saw starter Luke Hochevar pounded for nine runs in 4 2/3 frames.

Detroit is 11-4 versus the Royals this season, but has split the six meetings so far in Kansas City.