Matchup: Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals

Date/Time: September 19, 8:10 p.m. ET

TV: ESPN2

MLB Betting Odds From 5Dimes Sportsbook

Probable Starters: DET: Justin Verlander (13-12, 4.81) v. KC: Jason Vargas (11-9, 3.41)

Moneyline: Kansas City -113

Total: 8

An enormous series begins on Friday night when the Kansas City Royals host the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers lead the Royals by a half-game in the AL Central standings and the Royals lead both Seattle and Oakland in the AL Wild Card hunt. The A’s collapse has pushed the Royals into the first wild card spot, which would carry home-field advantage in the play-in game. The Tigers are tied with the Royals in the loss column, but have one additional win due to one more game played.

Justin Verlander has not been the ace that Tigers fans are accustomed to. He’s just one game above .500 with a ghastly 4.81 ERA. Verlander actually leads the AL in earned runs allowed. Over his last 20 starts, Verlander has a 5.49 ERA and opposing hitters have a slash line of .285/.341/.468/.809. Verlander has allowed 76 earned runs and eight unearned runs in that span, covering 124.2 innings. To put that into perspective, Verlander threw 251 innings in 2011 and allowed 67 earned runs. The following season, he threw 238.1 innings and allowed 70 earned runs.

Jason Vargas is having the best season of his career and he’ll be making one of the biggest starts of the season for the Royals. They need to set the tone in this game the pressure lies on Vargas to do that. The southpaw returned from the disabled list on August 2 and has a 3.62 ERA over his last nine starts. He has struggled in his last two outings, however, with nine runs allowed over 10.2 innings of work. Vargas has not finished a start with an ERA above 3.76 this season.

Verlander has had great success against the Royals in his career. In 34 previous starts, Verlander is 18-7 with a 3.23 ERA. It was even better prior to this season, but Verlander is 2-2 with a 5.57 ERA in five starts. If Verlander has anything left in the tank, this would be the time to showcase it. The Tigers are 17-13 in Verlander’s 30 starts for a loss of 0.79 units.

Vargas has not had a whole lot of success against the Tigers in his career. In nine previous starts, Vargas is 3-3 with a 4.86 ERA. This season, Vargas has a 5.18 ERA in four starts covering 24.1 innings of work. The Royals are 14-14 in Vargas’s 28 starts for a loss of 3.11 units.

Free MLB Pick: Detroit Tigers

All of the pressure will be on the Royals for this game because this is the biggest series in two decades for the Royals and they’ll be in front of their home crowd. The Tigers have been in these types of situations before and that’s especially true of Verlander. He has not pitched well all season long, but players like him step up at this time of year and if he’s going to have an impact on the season, it’ll have to be soon. This start is that opportunity.