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Red-hot Royals carry momentum into big series with Tigers

(SportsNetwork.com) - The American League Central race is beginning to heat up and the Kansas City Royals are making some noise in the standings. The Royals will try to cut into the lead of the Detroit Tigers in the division when the two clubs open a four-game series Monday night at Comerica Park.

The Royals have won seven in a row and 10 of the last 12 games, and sit just 1 1/2 games behind the Tigers for the Central lead.

Kansas City pulled off a three-game weekend sweep of the division-rival Chicago White Sox with Sunday�s 6-3 win, as ace James Shields allowed three runs in six innings to improve to 8-3 this season. Shields has now won five straight decisions and the Royals haven't lost a game in which he's started since May 2.

"We're hitting on all cylinders," Shields said. "It's really nice to see." Greg Holland posted his 20th save in the ninth for the Royals, who are on the longest win streak since a nine-game run last July 22 - Aug. 1. Kansas City has won five in a row on the road.

Salvador Perez belted a three-run homer and Eric Hosmer delivered a two-run shot in the win.

The Royals will send Jason Vargas to the mound Monday and he is unbeaten (2-0) in his previous four starts. Vargas came out on top in last Tuesday's 9-5 win over Cleveland and permitted three runs and six hits in 7 2/3 innings.

Vargas has allowed more than two runs just once during his unbeaten stretch and is 6-2 with a 3.30 ERA overall. The lefty has a 2-0 mark in six road starts and has faced Detroit twice this season, going 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA.

In seven career starts against the Tigers, Vargas is 2-2 with a 5.01 ERA.

The Tigers won two of three matchups with the Minnesota Twins this weekend and took the series thanks to a 4-3 victory on Sunday. Torii Hunter scored the game-winning run on a J.D. Martinez sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth for the Tigers, winners in three of the last four games.

"It just felt like a good team win. There was no one person that kind of stood out," Martinez said. "I was the lucky one that got the ball in the outfield."

Detroit pitcher Joe Nathan stranded runners on first and second in the top of the ninth to pick up the win against his former club. Rick Porcello got the start and gave up three runs on five hits with three walks over seven innings.

Justin Verlander hopes to snap out of his funk when he takes the mound for the Tigers Monday. The hard-throwing right-hander has lost two straight and four of five starts, and is coming off Wednesday's 8-2 loss against the Chicago White Sox in which he gave up seven runs in 5 2/3 innings.

Verlander has allowed a home run in each of his past four starts (5 total) and has walked at least three batters in five of the previous six. His earned run average since May 14 (6 starts) is 7.41. Verlander is 2-4 in seven starts at Comerica Park this season and has a 1-0 mark in two starts against the Royals.

He has enjoyed plenty of success throughout his career against Kansas City, going 17-5 with a 2.89 ERA. In 14 overall starts in 2014, the 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner is 6-6 with a 4.61 ERA.

The Tigers have won all five meetings with Kansas City so far and this four- game set was made possible due to a rainout on April 3.

06/16 11:03:52 ET

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