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DET@NYY: Anibal fans eight Yankees over seven frames

While it's generally unfair to say that any one game is more important than another over the course of a 162-game season, this long weekend in Detroit could help shape the rest of the race for the American League Central title.

The Tigers and Royals are set to square off for five games in four days, starting Thursday night at Comerica Park, with Anibal Sanchez facing Jeremy Guthrie. Detroit has a firm grasp on the division lead at this point, claiming a six-game edge over Cleveland and a 7 1/2-game margin over Kansas City.

A big push in this series could thrust the Royals right into the thick of things, while a dominant performance from the Tigers would only solidify their standing atop the division and diminish Kansas City's postseason hopes.

"We're taking it day by day right now," Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "Really, these are our playoffs coming up right here. ... Pretty much every game here on out is a playoff game for us."

The Royals have won 19 of 26 games since the All-Star break, but they haven't been able to make much of a dent in the Tigers' lead. Why? Because Detroit has gone 18-7 during that stretch.

But Tigers manager Jim Leyland knows the Royals still could change things in a hurry.

"They're good. They're playing really good, we're playing good, Cleveland's been playing good for a stretch now," Leyland said. "That's the way it is."

Sanchez, taking the ball for Detroit, has been dominant in his last five starts, going 3-1 with a 1.60 ERA and a .189 opponents' average. That impressive stretch began against the Royals on July 19, his only start against Kansas City this season, when he allowed one run and struck out three over six innings.

Guthrie, meanwhile, is aiming to become the first Royals pitcher with 13 or more wins in a season since Zack Greinke posted 16 in 2009. He just saw his four-game winning streak come to an end Saturday, having allowed five runs on 10 hits over six innings against the Red Sox.

Guthrie is 7-3 with a 4.06 ERA over 16 appearances (13 starts) against the Tigers, but that includes a perfect 4-0 mark in five starts as a Royal and two victories over Detroit this season.

Royals: Bonifacio picked up in trade
• Kansas City made its second trade in four days for an infielder, acquiring the versatile Emilio Bonifacio from Toronto in exchange for a player to be named or cash considerations. The speedy switch-hitter hit .218 with three homers and 20 RBIs in 94 games for the Blue Jays, but isn't far removed from a 2011 campaign when he hit .296 for the Marlins.

"He's very versatile. He can play multiple positions -- infield, outfield. He can play second base, third base, all three outfield positions and is a switch-hitter," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "He has speed as well."

The Royals cleared a spot for Bonifacio on the 40-man roster by placing infielder Miguel Tejada on the 60-day disabled list, effectively bringing his season to an end. Kansas City acquired Jamey Carroll from Minnesota on Sunday.

• Although no announcement has been made, it appears the Royals will call up left-hander Danny Duffy to pitch one of the two games Friday at Detroit.

Tigers: Pena not surprised by Royals' success
• Catcher Brayan Pena is a former Royal, having spent 2009-12 in Kansas City, and said he keeps in touch with some of his former teammates. He noted, however, that "between those two lines, we're enemies."

With that said, Pena is not shocked that the Royals have emerged as a contender this year, agreeing that it was only a matter of time until the young players put it all together.

"Everybody knew that about them. Most of those guys were first-rounders. And they're no busts. It just takes time," Pena said. "It takes time and experience for them to reach the level that they're going to be -- but hopefully not this year or next year or some other time."

• The Tigers haven't officially named a starter for the second half of Friday's doubleheader, but lefty Jose Alvarez is likely to be recalled from Triple-A Toledo as the designated 26th man.

Worth noting
• Detroit's Victor Martinez (13-for-34) and Prince Fielder (12-for-38) extended their hitting streaks to eight games on Wednesday, each going 1-for-4.

• The Royals' 10-inning loss to the Marlins was the club's highest-rated broadcast ever on FOX Sports Kansas City, averaging a 12.3 household rating in the Kansas City market and peaking at 15.6. Royals telecasts on FSKC are averaging a 6.4 rating this season, an increase of 65 percent from last year.

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