The Royals have one more game this weekend to gain some ground against the Tigers in the American League Central race. After losing the first game of the five-game series, the Royals won both games of the doubleheader on Friday and lost on Saturday.
Left-hander Bruce Chen will take the mound for the Royals and be opposed by right-hander Max Scherzer in Sunday's rubber match at Comerica Park.
The third-place Royals are 7 1/2 games back of the first-place Tigers and 5 1/2 games out of the AL Wild Card race. It's a place unfamiliar for Kansas City, which hasn't been this close this late in the season in a decade.
"This is what you play for. You want to make sure that come August, September you're playing for something," Chen said. "I've been with Kansas City the last five years and this is the closest we've ever gotten to make a playoff run."
The Royals will have their work cut out for them against Scherzer, who has already defeated them twice this season. He is 4-0 since his last loss and a Major League-leading 17-1 on the season, with a 2.85 ERA. Scherzer gave up two earned runs on four hits with three walks and six strikeouts over six innings against the White Sox on Tuesday.
Scherzer is trying to become the fifth Major League pitcher since 1912 to go 18-1 or better. He would join the Yankees' Roger Clemens (2001), Pittsburgh's Roy Face (1959) and Brooklyn's Don Newcombe (1955) in accomplishing the feat. Rube Marquard of the New York Giants started out 18-0 in 1912.
"It's not so much my achievement. It's a team achievement," Scherzer said last week. "If I'm going to sit here and take credit for these wins and say I'm the reason why we're winning, I'd be pretty naïve. I definitely help the ballclub. I'm obviously doing things right. I'm pitching deep into games. I'm minimizing walks, doing everything I want to do.
"But at the same time, most of these games I'm pitching, I'm getting a ton of run support. These guys are putting quality at-bats together and our lineup is so deep. It's really a team effort every time I pitch that the guys are able to score runs and I'm able to minimize damage, and that's how we seem to get a win every time."
Chen started this season in the bullpen, but since switching to the starting rotation he's 2-0 with a 0.93 ERA in six starts (5-0 overall). This is the second time he's started a career 5-0. The first came in 2000, when he was with Atlanta and Philadelphia.
"I'm aware of the situation, but I'm not going to treat it any differently," Chen said. "I'm preparing myself, watching a lot of videos, have my game plan. The most important thing is I want to be myself."
In his last start, Chen pitched seven scoreless innings against the Marlins, scattering three hits and three walks. He carries an 18 2/3 innings scoreless streak into his start.
Royals: Moustakas returns to lineup
Third baseman Mike Moustakas returned to the lineup on Saturday, where he batted sixth and went 2-for-3 before Jamey Carroll pinch-hit for him in the seventh inning.
Moustakas missed five games with left calf tightness after leaving Monday night's game when he was injured running the bases.
He's batting .306 with 13 RBIs after the All-Star break.
Tigers: Infante and Cabrera battling injuries
Tigers second baseman Omar Infante returned from the disabled list a week ago and is still working on getting healthy. He missed more than a month with a left ankle sprain and returned on Monday, then had to exit Saturday's game due to back spasms.
Miguel Cabrera has been battling a strained abdomen for the past month in addition to a bruise on his shin and a sore knee that he hurt in an at-bat last week against the Yankees.
"I'm totally amazed what I'm seeing, because I can't believe what I'm seeing, to be honest with you," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "You just want to make sure when you see it every day that you just don't take it for granted."
Cabrera hit a walk-off homer on Saturday night.
• Royals second baseman Chris Getz has three multihit games this series, going 6-for-17 with three runs and an RBI.
• Tigers catcher Brayan Pena is batting .429 (15-for-35) with two doubles, a home run and three RBIs during his last 10 games.
Kathleen Gier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.