DETROIT -- The Kansas City Royals headed to Detroit's Comerica Park last month well positioned for a playoff push. They return Monday looking like nothing more than spoilers.
The defending champions lost two of three in their first series at Comerica this season, starting them on a post-All-Star break slide. They've gone from two games above .500 to three games below that mark, virtually assuring they will not a third straight trip to the postseason.
Two four-game losing streaks and a three-game slide during the ensuing three weeks after the series loss in Detroit dropped Kansas City to a season-worst seven games below .500 before a recent upswing. The Royals have won six of their last eight, including an 11-4 win over Minnesota on Sunday -- their second-highest scoring output this season.
Right-hander Ian Kennedy, who will start the opener of the three-game series, has perked up in his last three starts. He has allowed just two runs in 19 1/3 innings during that span but only has three no-decisions to show for it. Kennedy (6-9) has gone winless in his last eight starts, with his last victory coming June 26 against Houston.
Kennedy, who signed a five-year, $70 million contract during the offseason as a free agent, feels like he has some momentum heading into his 24th start of the season.
"The last couple starts have been building off each other, and keeping that same thing in between starts -- the same routine," Kennedy said to the Kansas City Star.
Kennedy gave up one run and six hits in 6 1/3 innings against the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday in his last start, which the Royals won in extra innings.
In two starts against Detroit this season, Kennedy has a loss and a no-decision despite allowing a combined three earned runs.
"He's had some lulls, but for the most part, he's gone deep into games," manager Ned Yost told the Kansas City Star. "He's kept us in games."
The Tigers are coming off back-to-back shutout victories over Texas, including a complete-game, 7-0 whitewash by Rookie of the Year award candidate Michael Fulmer on Sunday.
"To take two out of three after being swept in Seattle is certainly a good ending to a road trip that started out poorly," Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said during his postgame interview.
Tigers left-hander Daniel Norris will make his second start since returning from Triple-A Toledo. Norris (1-0), who went on the 15-day disabled list in early July with a right oblique strain, gave up one run and seven hits in five innings at Seattle on Tuesday. He was in line for a victory before the Mariners rallied for an extra-innings win.
Norris got a no-decision in his lone career start against Kansas City.
Detroit is in survival mode while trying to remain in striking distance of American League Central leader Cleveland. Center fielder Cameron Maybin, third baseman Nick Castellanos and shortstop Jose Iglesias are on the 15-day disabled list, as well as starting pitchers Jordan Zimmermann and Mike Pelfrey.
"There's no reason to dwell on injuries," second baseman Ian Kinsler told the Detroit News. "There's no reason to dwell on what-ifs. We have who we have to play and we're going to win the games we have to win with the players we have to put on the field."
Kinsler should be happy to see Kennedy on the mound. Detroit's leadoff hitter has five extra-base hits in 12 career at-bats against Kennedy.