Aside from wrapping up home-field advantage throughout the postseason, the Kansas City Royals have a few other things to get in order before October rolls around.
Getting Johnny Cueto on course might be of the highest priority.
The right-hander's next shot at emerging from a wretched span comes Friday night in Detroit, where the Royals will try to win two straight for the first time in 14 games.
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Cueto (2-6, 5.43 ERA), acquired July 26 in a four-player deal with Cincinnati, got off to an impressive start in the AL with a 2-1 record and 1.80 ERA in four starts, but he's since lost five straight with a 9.57 ERA and eight home runs allowed.
He gave up four homers during Sunday's 8-2 loss at Baltimore, resulting in eight runs - seven earned - and 11 hits over 6 1-3 innings. Prior to this stretch, he'd never lost more than three straight starts and had allowed four home runs only once.
"I feel like I've felt every time," Cueto told MLB's official website through an interpreter. "I feel strong, healthy. What needs to happen is I need to keep my head up and keep moving forward. I can't look at the negatives from the past few weeks."
Detroit has already contributed to his struggles once, tagging Cueto with four runs and nine hits in six innings of a 6-5 final Sept. 1, but the veteran also threw a four-hit shutout against the Tigers on Aug. 10. All four of his career starts against them have come this season with a 2-1 record and 2.96 ERA.
Victor Martinez (0 for 16) and Nick Castellanos (1 for 10) have struggled the most, but Miguel Cabrera is 3 for 6 with a home run against Cueto.
Justin Verlander knows what it's like to emerge from sustained struggles, but he's fallen back into them a bit during back-to-back losses. Verlander (3-8, 3.58) had gone 3-3 with a 1.53 ERA over eight starts before giving up seven runs in 13 innings in a pair of losses against Cleveland.
He didn't read too much into surrendering four runs and six hits in six innings of a 7-2 road loss Sept. 13.
"It was kind of a mixed bag because I felt I pitched pretty good, but they got a couple of bloop hits that were costly," Verlander said.
The right-hander is 3-3 with a 5.13 ERA in his last six starts against Kansas City. Salvador Perez (20 for 41) and Alex Rios (17 for 46) have hit him well, but Omar Infante (4 for 25), Mike Moustakas (10 for 53) and Alcides Escobar (12 for 63) have not.
Infante helped the Royals (86-60) break out of an offensive funk in Thursday's 8-4 win in Cleveland, going 3 for 4 with a home run and a double while matching a franchise record for second basemen with seven RBIs. Rios was also 3 for 4 and is batting .418 in his last 15 games. The win followed a 1-3 stretch with just eight runs scored.
The team maintained its two-game lead over Toronto for home field, though Kansas City hasn't won consecutive games over a 4-9 span with a 6.07 ERA out of the rotation.
Manager Ned Yost is trying to line up a strong set of four arms for the playoffs and has already sent Danny Duffy to the bullpen in favor of Jeremy Guthrie.
The Tigers (67-78) have won three of four after securing the last two of a three-game series in Minnesota with Thursday's 7-4 win in 12 innings.
J.D. Martinez hit his 37th home run and is batting .455 in his last five games.