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The Kansas City Royals open the second half with a critical homestand that begins with the opener of a three-game series against the first-place Detroit Tigers on Friday. Kansas City limped into the break with five straight losses and sits a season-high eight games behind the Tigers in the American League Central and 9 1/2 out in the wild-card race. With the trade deadline approaching, it may be now or never for the Royals, who retooled themselves this offseason with the goal of a playoff push.
One of the new additions in Kansas City, right-hander James Shields, remains hopeful. "I remember one year, we (the Tampa Bay Rays) lost I think seven or eight in a row and it put us in a deep hole and we ended up winning 10 straight after the break, so I'm not really too worried about it," he said. The Tigers, who have alternated wins and losses over their last eight contests, open the second half with a 1 1/2-game lead over Cleveland.
TV: 8:10 p.m. ET, FSN (Detroit, Kansas City)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Tigers RH Anibal Sanchez (7-6, 2.93 ERA) vs. Royals RH Ervin Santana (5-6, 3.37)
Sanchez has faced the Royals just twice in his career, allowing one run on 10 hits in 16 innings. The veteran recorded 10 strikeouts while tossing a three-hit shutout in the last meeting on Sept. 25. Sanchez has made two starts since coming off the disabled list earlier this month, going 1-1 while failing to last six innings in either outing.
Santana's strong first half ended in painful fashion, as he was pounded for eight runs on 10 hits and three walks in five innings at the New York Yankees on July 11. Prior to that outing, Santana had posted eight straight quality starts. The 30-year-old is 6-3 with a 3.59 ERA in 11 career starts against Detroit.
1. Tigers 1B Prince Fielder is 6-for-10 with three home runs against Santana.
2. Five Detroit players appeared in the All-Star Game on Tuesday, with RHP Max Scherzer starting and throwing one perfect inning.
3. The Royals took two of three over the Tigers in Kansas City last month. All three games were 3-2 decisions.
PREDICTION: Tigers 4, Royals 3