The Royals got their first victory in six tries against the Tigers with an 11-8 win on Monday night at Comerica Park. And it couldn't have come at a better time, moving Kansas City to within a half-game of the American League Central division leaders.
The Royals are scheduled to give the ball to rookie right-hander Yordano Ventura as they look to take sole possession of first place in the Central on Tuesday. Ventura is coming off what Kansas City manager Ned Yost called one of his best outings in terms of command in a 4-1 victory over Cleveland last Wednesday.
The 23-year-old tossed seven innings, allowing one run on six hits, walking none and striking out three. It was Ventura's fourth start in which he went at least six innings and did not walk a batter, tying him with the Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka as the only two rookie pitchers to have accomplished that feat so far in 2014.
"[Ventura] just really was putting it exactly where he wanted it," Yost said, "a power fastball, and mixed in a really good changeup and an occasional good curveball."
For the Royals to displace the Tigers atop the AL Central, they'll have to go through Detroit ace Max Scherzer, who earned his first career complete-game victory with a three-hit shutout of the White Sox in Chicago last Thursday. In 18 career starts against the Royals, Scherzer is 9-4 with a 3.19 ERA.
Despite how tight the division race is with the Royals nipping at the Tigers' heels, outfielder Torii Hunter -- who had to leave Monday's game due to a right hamstring cramp in the fourth -- doesn't see this series, in particular, as all-important.
"It's too early to say it's the biggest game of the year," Hunter said before the series opener. "The biggest games of the year will always be in August and September."
Royals: Stirring up double trouble
The Royals and the Tigers are two teams that can double the trouble.
Detroit has 141 doubles, leading the AL with Kansas City right behind with 136.
The Royals have three players ranked in the league's top 10 for doubles: Eric Hosmer has 21 and Alcides Escobar and Alex Gordon have 20 each. Detroit's Miguel Cabrera leads the league with 23 doubles and Ian Kinsler is also among the league leaders, tied with Hosmer with 21.
Even pitchers on both clubs have contributed doubles during Interleague Play. James Shields has one for the Royals and Anibal Sanchez has one for the Tigers.
Tigers: Hunter leaves game with hamstring cramp
Hunter had to leave Monday's series opener in the fourth inning after reaching first on a bloop single. He sustained a right hamstring cramp and is listed as day to day.
Hunter grabbed his right hamstring while running to first on the single and was replaced by pinch-runner J.D. Martinez, who also took over in right field for Hunter.
Hunter is batting .266 with 13 doubles, nine home runs and 35 RBIs so far this season.
Martinez took advantage of the playing time, launching a grand slam in the ninth inning of Monday's loss.
• Lucky number: When scoring four runs or more this season, the Royals have a 31-4 record.
• Gordon is 12-for-31 (.387) in his career against Scherzer, with three doubles, two homers and three RBIs. Salvador Perez has also had success against the right-hander, batting .381 (8-for-21) with two doubles, two homers and four RBIs against him.
• Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas and Hosmer have all struggled against Scherzer. Cain is 0-for-12 in his career, Moustakas is 3-for-26 (.115) and Hosmer is 6-for-28 (.214).
Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.