MLB Picks for Ventura-Scherzer Showdown: Royals vs. Tigers

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 12:06 PM UTC

Tuesday, Jun. 17, 2014 12:06 PM UTC

If Kansas City takes at least three of four from the Tigers in their series this week, the Royals will be atop the AL Central, a division most everyone assumed Detroit would win again. The Tigers are -169 favorites for Tuesday's Game 2 on MLB odds.

Tigers May Not Run Away With Division As Expected
Detroit is still a sizable -350 favorite at sportsbooks to win the AL Central for a fourth straight year. Kansas City is +400 to win the Central, which it has never done. It hasn't won a division or made the playoffs since taking the AL West in 1985, and beating St. Louis in the World Series. Last year when Kansas City finished over .500 for the first time since 2003, the closest the team got to first place after June 1 was 4.5 games.

The Royals, who entered Monday on a seven-game winning streak, were four games under .500 as recently as May 29. That date is notable because it was also the day the team fired hitting coach Pedro Grifol, and replaced him with former Cubs manager Dale Sveum. It has worked wonders. For example, in their past 12 games entering Monday, the Royals have 11 home runs and 28 doubles, hitting .284. The team had only 24 dingers in its first 56 games. Kansas City has been a very good defensive and pitching team all year.

Detroit, meanwhile, is just 5-8 this month entering Monday. Justin Verlander, who started Monday's series opener, has been very shaky of late. The Tigers essentially lost last year's ALCS because of their bullpen. They figured the problem was solved with the signing of free-agent closer Joe Nathan this offseason. Alas the 39-year-old has a 6.57 ERA and four blown saves. He blew just three saves all last season with the Texas Rangers. Offensively, the Tigers' best player thus far hasn't been two-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera but DH Victor Martinez, who leads the AL with a .333 average and is tied for fourth with 17 home runs. The team hasn't missed Prince Fielder much because of Martinez. Cabrera hasn't been a slouch, batting .324 as he looks to win a fourth straight batting title.

Probable Pitchers
If you like flame-throwers, then Tuesday's game is for you as the Royals' Yordano Ventura and Tigers' Max Scherzer are two of the hardest throwers in the majors. Ventura (4-5, 3.20) might be an AL Rookie of the Year candidate in other seasons, but he has no shot at the award in 2014, thanks to the presence of the Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka, and White Sox's Jose Abreu. Ventura has won his past two starts. He allowed two runs in six innings June 5 at home against St. Louis, and then a run over seven innings last Wednesday against visiting Cleveland. The Tigers have never faced the Dominican. He is 2-1 with a 2.30 ERA in four road starts.

As nasty as Scherzer (8-2, 3.05) has been in his career, it was somewhat surprising that he hadn't had a complete-game shutout yet. He can check that off his bucket list as Scherzer blanked the White Sox on just three hits while striking out eight last time out. It was his best start since his first of the year, which came at Comerica Park against the Royals. He shut out Kansas City on four hits, striking out seven over eight innings. A couple of Royals have had career success off him. Alex Gordon is 12-for-31 with two home runs and seven walks. Salvador Perez is 8-for-21 with two homers and two doubles. Scherzer is 5-0 with a 2.16 ERA in six home starts this year.

MLB free picks: Detroit -169 on MLB odds and 'under' 7.5 runs for your MLB picks. Also Tigers at +130 on the runline. The Tigers are 5-0 in Scherzer's past five at home against Kansas City. The 'under' is 6-2 in his past eight overall against the Royals.

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