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Game 160 Preview: Tigers at Royals

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Rick Porcello and the Tigers have an AL Central division title on their minds as they start a three game series in Kansas City against the Royals.

Dave Reginek - Getty Images

Detroit Tigers (86-73) at Kansas City Royals (71-88)

Time/Place: 8:00 p.m., Kaufmann Stadium

SB Nation Blog: Royals Review

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Rick Porcello (9-12, 4.68 ERA) vs. LHP Bruce Chen (11-13, 5.13 ERA)

Chen's last start against the Tigers went as expected: tons of baserunners, not many runs. This is nothing new though. In 2012, Chen has allowed 36 base runners in his 25 innings -- a WHIP of 1.400 along with one hit batter -- but has only allowed 10 earned runs, six of which came in one bad outing. The Tigers will get chances against Chen tonight. Whether or not they capitalize on those chances will probably decide the game.

Another deciding factor in tonight's game is whether Porcello can avoid the big inning, an issue that has plagued him all season long. He allowed four runs on seven hits in just four innings in his last start, throwing just 61 pitches. I'd call it a glorified spot start, but Drew Smyly has easily outperformed those numbers in each of his last two starts. This is a far cry from April Porcello, who started the season with two masterful performances. A strong finish tonight isn't out of the question, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it either.

Outlook

What a difference a week makes. Seven days ago, the Tigers were one game back of the Chicago White Sox after being swept in a day-night doubleheader by the Minnesota Twins. A 6-1 performance combined with a 2-5 week from the Sox has vaulted the Tigers to the brink of their first consecutive postseason appearances since the Great Depression. A win tonight would be ideal, if only to give us a couple days of stress-free baseball before the postseason starts.

Prediction

The Tigers become the first team in the American League to win their division tonight.