Tigers-Blue Jays preview

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TORONTO -- There will be a game within the game Thursday when the Detroit Tigers play the Toronto Blue Jays in the opener of a four-game series at Rogers Centre.

Both teams have playoff aspirations and could be in the mix for wild card spots down the road,

Then there is a more immediate drama.

Detroit second baseman Ian Kinsler and Toronto left fielder Michael Saunders are facing each other in the polls as American League All-Star Final Vote candidates.

The other candidates are Houston Astros outfielder George Springer, Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia and Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria.

The game Thursday will be the only game in the series that could influence the voting, which closes at 4 p.m. Friday.

Saunders was leading the polls as of Wednesday night with Kinsler fourth. He also helped himself by hitting his 16th homer of the season and then driving in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning of the 4-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

Kinsler was 3-for-4 and scored three runs Wednesday afternoon to help the Tigers defeat the Cleveland Indians for the first time in 12 games against them this season, 12-2.

"First and foremost, what's important right now is that we get the wins," Saunders said. "Finish strong leading into the all-star break. Obviously the support that I've received, not only from the guys in this locker room and this organization, but fans all across Canada words can't explain how grateful I am."

"He's had a tremendous year," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "I guess he goes unnoticed with some of the fire power and the big names we have on the team. He just kind of slides by."

Saunders is batting .296 with 40 RBIs.

"I would love to play in the game," Kinsler said. "It's always an honor, always a privilege to be an All-Star. If I'm deserving, if the people think I'm deserving, I guess I will go. There are obviously other good players in the Final Vote, guys who are having really good years. They should all be there."

Tigers All-Star first baseman Miguel Cabrera said. "Now we've got to make a push for Kinsler. He is one of our best players in the lineup. He does everything to win games for us.

Kinsler is batting .293 with 16 homers and 52 RBIs.

Saunders has had some success against the Tigers in his career, batting .307 (27-for-88) with 10 RBIs.

He has not been so successful against Justin Verlander (8-6, 4.11) who will start the opener on Thursday. Saunders is 3-for-20 against the Tigers right-hander.

Kinsler is batting .233 in his career against the Blue Jays but has done much better since joining the Tigers in 2014, hitting .333 (22-for-66) with 15 RBIs.

Verlander is 3-4 with a 4.90 ERA in 10 career starts against Toronto. He is 2-1 with a 3.25 ERA in four career starts at Rogers Centre, where he had a no-hitter in 2011.

Verlander has 115 strikeouts, fourth in the league, in 111 innings. The Blue Jays whiffed 15 times Wednesday against the Kansas City Royals.

With Marco Estrada -- who was named to the All-Star team -- going on the disabled list with a sore back on Wednesday, the start on Thursday falls to Drew Hutchison (1-0, 5.40 ERA), who has made 15 of his 16 starts this season with Triple-A Buffalo, where he is 6-3 with a 2.78 ERA. In three career starts against the Tigers, he is 1-1 with a 2.89 ERA.