Rick Porcello's April numbers didn't have anyone appointing him as the new ace of the Detroit Tigers' loaded starting staff. They were, however, the best of his career.
After successfully working his way through what is historically his worst month of the season, Porcello turns the calendar to his best month Friday night as the Tigers begin a three-game series in Kansas City against Royals No. 1 James Shields.
Porcello (3-1, 3.96 ERA) is 13-6 with a 3.16 ERA in 25 career starts in May. He entered the year with a 6-11 record and 6.58 ERA in 23 April games but finished last month with wins in consecutive outings.
The Tigers (14-9) have had two days off and a rainout since he allowed four runs on six hits in five innings of a 10-6 win in Minnesota on April 25, so he'll have had six days to think about an effort he wasn't thrilled with.
"I just couldn't find a rhythm. I was a little out of sorts there (in the sixth) and I just couldn't rebound from it," Porcello told the team's official website. "I actually felt like I was battling myself the whole game. I really struggled getting ahead of guys throwing first-pitch fastballs for strikes."
He's 6-3 with a 4.55 ERA in 15 career starts against Kansas City (14-13) and has had a particularly tough time with Eric Hosmer, who is 5 for 14 with two home runs off Porcello.
April has historically treated Shields (3-2, 2.03) far better, and this year was no different. The right-hander has won three straight starts and is holding opponents to a .196 average after surrendering two runs and three hits over seven innings in Sunday's 9-3 victory in Baltimore.
"(Nelson Cruz) hit a two-run homer on a changeup but, other than that, I thought he threw the ball great," manager Ned Yost told the team's official website.
Shields' first start of the season came against the Tigers, with whom he owns a 6-3 record and 4.13 ERA in 15 career starts. He allowed three runs on five hits in 6 1-3 innings before leaving without a decision in a 4-3 opening-day loss.
Detroit won both games in that season-opening series and now seeks its fourth straight against the Royals and third straight overall after sweeping a two-game series with the Chicago White Sox.
Miguel Cabrera continued to heat up with a 4-for-9 series. He's batting .419 with eight RBIs during a seven-game hitting streak while Torii Hunter carries a .400 average on an eight-game streak to Kansas City. Cabrera is 18 for 43 with seven doubles and two home runs against Shields while Hunter is a career .306 hitter against him.
The Royals had won three straight before Toronto denied them a three-game sweep in Thursday's 7-3 loss.
Omar Infante went 2 for 3 with two runs scored and is 6 for 14 with eight RBIs and four runs in four games while Billy Butler went 2 for 4 with two RBIs and is batting .360 in a six-game streak.
"I'm seeing the ball good now," said Butler, who started the season batting .195 through 21 games. "I knew it was going to come."
Kansas City's Alcides Escobar is 1 for 21 lifetime against Porcello.