Tigers seek 4-game sweep of Royals

(SportsNetwork.com) - The first-place Detroit Tigers will try to close out the first half on a high note, as they attempt to complete a four-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Justin Verlander's struggles have become well documented at this stage of the season. The 2011 AL Cy Young Award winner is 8-7 with the third-worst ERA in the American League among qualified starters (4.84).

Verlander struggled yet again in his latest start, allowing five earned runs in six innings of work against the Dodgers on July 8, but ample run support allowed him to earn the victory and move above .500.

"As a starting pitcher, you have to be able to turn the page," said Verlander, who settled down after allowing all five runs in the top of the first inning. "It's a nice feeling when you're able to go out there and keep your team in the game."

Verlander has three starts against the Royals already this season, owning a 5.68 ERA in 19 innings.

Kansas City will counter with Bruce Chen (1-2, 7.11 ERA), who recently returned from an inflamed disc in his back in late June after missing more than two months.

Chen pitched a scoreless inning in relief on July 6 and previously pitched to a no-decision against the Angels on June 28, allowing five hits and four earned runs in five innings of work to go with eight strikeouts.

The 37-year-old journeyman is 6-9 in his career versus the Tigers with a 5.52 ERA.

Detroit won its fifth straight game on Saturday with a 5-1 victory to earn the series victory.

Rick Porcello (12-5) bounced back from a tough start his last time out to tie the major league lead with his 12th win of the season, as he threw seven innings of one-run ball.

"I think he's clearly an All-Star," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said of Porcello. "He's got 12 wins. ... There's going to be snubs every year at the All-Star game, and I think he's clearly a snub."

J.D. Martinez went 3-for-4 with his 13th home run of the season. Alex Avila was 2-for-4 with a homer and three RBI, while Austin Jackson, Ian Kinsler and Torii Hunter all had two hits apiece as well.

James Shields (9-5) was the hard-luck loser for Kansas City, allowing just two runs over seven innings of work while striking out eight.

The Royals' lone run came on a Billy Butler sacrifice fly in the sixth. Butler finished with two of the team's six hits.

"We're not producing runs," said Royals manager Ned Yost. "We get runners in scoring position and we're not taking advantage of it. We're not getting hits, we're not taking advantage of run-scoring opportunities."

Detroit is 9-3 versus Kansas City on the year.