With a series victory on the line, the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals both turn to their respective aces on Wednesday afternoon in the finale of a three-game set.
Detroit's Justin Verlander and James Shields of Kansas City square off for the second time this season after going head-to-head in an 8-3 extra-inning road victory for the Royals back on April 25.
Neither ace factored into the decision. Verlander was charged with two runs -- one earned -- over seven innings before exiting due to a blister on his right thumb, while Shields allowed three runs in eight frames of work.
Both have had a great deal of success against their opponent. Verlander is 15-2 with a 2.67 earned run average in 24 meetings with the Royals, while Shields is 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA in 10 starts against the Tigers.
The two hurlers are both in the midst of interesting stretches. The right- hander Verlander has won four straight starts despite a 4.85 ERA in that span, while Shields is 0-4 over his last seven outings even though he has pitched to a 2.65 ERA in those appearances.
Detroit has scored 34 runs over Verlander's winning streak and he has gone seven innings and allowed three runs in three straight outings. That includes Friday's 7-5 win over Cleveland.
"I've still got a ways to go," said Verlander, who is 8-4 with a 3.71 ERA in 13 starts this season. "I've still got some work to do. But it's nice to be able to go out there and get wins for our ballclub."
Shields, meanwhile, has given up more than two runs just once over his current winless stretch, which began following an April 30 victory, and in just four of his 13 outings this season. The 31-year-old righty has not factored into the outcome of his last two starts, both wins for the Royals.
Shields last pitched on Friday versus Houston and gave up two runs over seven innings. He is 2-6 on the year with a solid 2.81 ERA.
The Tigers got another solid outing from Max Scherzer in Tuesday's meeting to draw even in this set. The right-hander held the Royals to a pair of runs over seven innings and remained undefeated on the season thanks to Victor Martinez's tie-breaking sac fly in the eighth inning that notched Detroit a 3-2 win.
Kansas City managed just three hits against Scherzer, who at 9-0 matched the longest win streak to begin a season by a Tigers starter since at least 1916. He joined Vern Kennedy (1938) and George Uhle (1929) as the only Detroit starters to win their first nine decisions.
"Yeah, I've put myself in a position (to pick up a win)," said Scherzer. "My offense has bailed me out a few times. Sometimes when you look at win-loss records, I'm on a great offensive team. It's just a flukey stat."
While the Tigers won for the fifth time in six games, the Royals had a season- high six-game winning streak halted and left the field thinking they got robbed a bit.
Down a run in the ninth, Salvador Perez reached with a leadoff single and pinch-runner Elliot Johnson stole second, but Jose Valverde struck out Billy Butler on a 3-2 pitch that Butler felt was inside. He argued on his way back to the dugout and continued to chirp at the umpire during the next at-bat before getting tossed from the game.
"I didn't think it was close and it got called," said Butler. "When I looked at the replay it was even worse than I thought it was."
Regardless, the Royals lost for the eighth time in their past 11 against the Tigers since a three-game sweep of Detroit at home from Aug. 28-30 of last year.