The time is now for the Detroit Tigers. With just six series left in the regular season, Detroit gets its last chance to host Kansas City, still in need of making up some ground in the AL Central.
But actually making up ground on the red-hot Royals has been difficult. Kansas City has lost just 12 games since July 22 - a stretch of 43 total games. So perhaps the only way to actually pick up a game in the AL Central is to beat the Royals themselves. For the next three days, the Tigers have that opportunity.
Game one features a matchup of Jeremy Guthrie and Justin Verlander. While Guthrie remains a consistent and solid option, no one really knows what Justin Verlander the Tigers will see on any given night. There are those who believe the former Cy Young winner can turn it on whenever he wants and return to that ace form. But he has yet to do that this season, posting a 4.80 ERA (his highest since 2008). With what should be a playoff-like atmosphere in Detroit, we ought to learn a lot about Verlander and what he may or may not be capable of when October returns.
But that only applies if Detroit can catch someone ahead of it in the standings. The Tigers trail the Royals by two games in the AL Central and have even fallen out of the race for the Wild Card play-in game.
The Seattle Mariners have gained a half game advantage for the last playoff spot. KC has not made the playoffs since 1985, which is the longest drought in baseball. The Mariners have the third-longest stretch without advancing to the postseason. Seattle hasn't played in October since 2001. The Tigers seem like the plausible spoiler in either scenario to keep one of them out for another season.
The Royals send Jason Vargas to the hill in game two in Detroit to take on Tigers' ace Max Scherzer. And then James Shields battles Rick Porcello in game three of the series. Detroit will likely be favored in all three games of the series, being the home team with three strong starting pitchers going. But no line should be too lopsided.
These two teams do play one more series in two weeks when the Tigers come to Kauffman Stadium over the weekend. Who knows what the AL Central will look like then because in three days the Tigers could reclaim the lead, the Royals could really put some distance between them and Detroit, or we could be right back where we're starting today.