Royals, Tigers set for AL Central skirmish

The two hottest teams in the American League Central square off on Monday, as the Kansas City Royals host the Detroit Tigers for the opener of a three-game series at Kauffman Stadium.

The Tigers notched their fourth consecutive victory with Sunday's 4-1 win over Cleveland. Jose Alvarez, making his big league debut, allowed only one run on three hits to go along with seven strikeouts over six innings. Don Kelly headlined the offense with a three-run home run in the sixth inning.

As a result, the Tigers extended their division lead to a season-high 5 1/2 games over second-place Cleveland, and they are 6 1/2 games ahead of the Royals.

However, they'll now go up against a Kansas City squad that is seeking its first six-game winning streak in two years. The Royals were in a scoreless tie with Houston on Sunday before plating two runs in the eighth inning to claim a 2-0 victory. Starter Luis Mendoza tossed seven shutout innings, and manager Ned Yost turned it over to a bullpen that has not allowed a run in 17 2/3 innings.

"I'm fully stocked," Yost said of his relief corps. "It doesn't matter how long this game goes, I've got enough pitching to wait it out."

Taking the hill for Kansas City is Jeremy Guthrie, who has pitched at least six innings in 11 of his 12 starts this season. The right-hander overcame a 39-pitch fist inning to last six frames against Minnesota on Wednesday, as the Royals claimed a 4-1 victory that began their current streak. That outing also ended a four-start winless streak for Guthrie, who has held opposing hitters to a .205 average in five home starts.

Meanwhile, Tigers starter Doug Fister will hope for some long awaited run support. The Tigers normally potent offense has not scored a run over Fister's last 16 1/3 innings.

Fister took a shutout into the ninth inning Wednesday at Tampa Bay. However, he went on to give up three runs in that final frame as the Tigers lost, 3-0.

"There always seems to be one guy who takes the brunt of these stretches where we can't get him any runs and Doug is getting that right now," catcher Alex Avila said.

These teams split two games in Detroit from April 24-25 in what was their only previous meeting so far this season.