Playing the first-place Tigers presents a golden opportunity for the Royals, who sit in third place in the American League Central standings. However, it also presents an enormous challenge against one of the Major Leagues' fiercest defenders of its home turf.
The Tigers have won 71 of their last 103 games at Comerica Park dating to July 4, 2012, the best home record in baseball over that span. Detroit is particularly hot at the moment, winning 19 of its past 27 games overall.
Right-hander Wade Davis starts for the Royals, who are seeking their third straight win after Friday's twin-bill sweep of the Tigers. Davis pitched six solid innings against the Marlins on Monday, allowing just two runs on six hits with two walks and three strikeouts. He has wins in two of his last three starts after taking losses in four straight.
Detroit counters with right-hander Doug Fister, who turned in an uncharacteristically wild outing on Monday against the White Sox, issuing a season-high-matching three walks while getting bit by a three-run fifth inning. It was his first loss in a span of eight starts (4-0, 3.23 ERA up until then).
If the Royals can pull out a win in the fourth game of the five-game series on Sunday, they'll sit just 5 1/2 games behind the front-running Tigers. However, Kansas City will be even more shorthanded in its quest.
Center fielder Lorenzo Cain is on the 15-day disabled list and third baseman Mike Moustakas has been sidelined by a calf injury. Outfielder Justin Maxwell left the team after the first game of Friday's doubleheader to attend the funeral of his grandmother. Manager Ned Yost knows their absences will make it tougher on his team.
"It makes a difference, it does," Yost said. "Moose has been swinging the bat really well. Our defense with Cain in there is better; he's arguably one of the best center fielders in the American League. And count his offense, too. It hurts, but you've got to find ways to cover it. That's what good teams do."
The Tigers are dealing with injury problems of their own, as catcher Alex Avila recovers from a concussion. He must be symptom-free for 24 hours before he'll be allowed to resume activities.
Royals: Top-ranked prospect shut down
Right-hander Kyle Zimmer, the top-ranked prospect in the Kansas City organization, left his start for Double-A Northwest Arkansas on Wednesday night and has been shut down for the remainder of the season.
"Kyle has some minor shoulder irritation and has reached his innings threshold for the season, so he will no longer pitch in 2013," said Royals director of player development Scott Sharp. "He is returning to school for the fall semester to rest and knock out some classes, and will return ready to go in 2014."
Zimmer threw 108 1/3 innings between Northwest Arkansas and Class A Wilmington. He had a combined 4.32 ERA in 22 starts, compiling 140 strikeouts against just 36 walks.
Tigers: Rondon slowly but surely developing
While Bruce Rondon hasn't immediately developed into the Major League closer the Tigers had hoped for, the organization is seeing steady progress from the right-handed reliever. Over eight innings in August, he's allowed just four hits while striking out eight.
"I'm really happy with him. I think it's working, knock on wood," manager Jim Leyland said. "I think the philosophy is working a little bit. We kind of broke him in and got him a little more responsibility as we go on, and I think he's responded pretty good. I'm really happy with him."
• The Royals have been terrors on the basepaths of late, stealing 16 bases over their last eight games.
• Kansas City's victory in the first game of Friday's doubleheader ended Detroit's 10-game home winning streak.
Jacob Thorpe is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.