(SportsNetwork.com) - With only a half-game separating them in the American League Central Division standings, the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals will face each other at Comerica Park on Friday night to open their second head-to-head series in a week.
These teams split a four-game set at Kauffman Stadium last week, with Kansas City rallying to even the series after dropping the first two games. Detroit won its fourth straight AL Central title last season as it edged the Royals by one game, and the two clubs are once again neck and neck atop the division standings.
Kansas City followed up last weekend's series by taking two of three from the visiting Cleveland Indians this week. The Royals out-hit the Tribe, 12-4, as they won Thursday's finale, 7-4. Eric Hosmer staked his team an early lead with a three-run home run in the first inning, and Greg Holland later came on to pick up his first save since coming off the disabled list.
"They've got a lot of guys hot and they're swinging with confidence," Indians manager Terry Francona observed of the Royals offense. "That's a tough lineup."
The lineup could get a boost from the return of shortstop Alcides Escobar, who was eligible to come of the seven-day DL on Thursday. Also, recently acquired catcher Drew Butera is expected to join the team in Detroit.
The Tigers are also dealing with an injury at shortstop, as Jose Iglesias is questionable for Friday's game after aggravating a groin injury a couple of nights ago. Manager Brad Ausmus said on Thursday that he expected Iglesias to miss a couple of games.
The Tigers are back home following a 5-5 road trip. They are looking to get back on track after dropping two of three to the White Sox in Chicago, although they did stave off the sweep with a 4-1 triumph on Thursday.
Kyle Lobstein came through for Detroit with 7 2/3 strong innings, allowing only an unearned run on five hits. The offense scored two runs in the eighth to gain some separation, then closer Joakim Soria pitched 1 1/3 frames and struck out four to earn his 11th save.
David Price will start for Detroit in Friday's opener. The southpaw is 3-1 with a 2.93 ERA after tossing a complete game, five-hitter against these same Royals last Saturday at Kauffman. Only a ninth-inning home run off the bat of Lorenzo Cain stood between Price and his first shutout in a Tigers uniform.
"I always want to get 27 outs," Price said. "I want that every fifth day."
For Kansas City, Yordano Ventura gets the nod as he makes his first start since serving a seven-game suspension for an in-game scuffle with the White Sox on April 23. In his most recent outing, the right-hander gave up five earned runs in 5 1/3 frames at Cleveland to drop to 2-2 with a 4.94 ERA on the season.