Through all of the Detroit Tigers' recent pitching struggles, Anibal Sanchez has unfailingly provided manager Brad Ausmus with strong starts.
He'll need another to slow first-place Kansas City.
As good as Sanchez has been lately, he's been even better in his career against the Royals and will look to continue that trend Thursday as the Tigers try to avoid a four-game sweep.
"My goal wasn't to take three out of four when I left (for Detroit), my goal is to win every single game," Royals manager Ned Yost told MLB's official website.
Winner of 10 straight for the first time since stringing together 14 victories in 1994, Kansas City moved 1 1/2 games ahead of the Tigers with its eighth straight road win in Wednesday's 2-1 victory. A ninth in a row would give the Royals (39-32) their longest road winning streak since an 11-game run in 1977.
"Everything's going right for them right now," said Sanchez, who hasn't lost since April 21. "But at the end of the day, you need to give credit. They're playing good. They do the little things."
Former Tiger Omar Infante went 2 for 4 on Wednesday to extend his hitting streak to nine games and homered for the second time in this series, during which he has eight RBIs. Salvador Perez ran his hitting streak to 12 games while Billy Butler pushed his to eight, but after scoring 22 runs in the first two games in Detroit, the Royals fell back on other phases.
"We had to go back to our old way of doing things - pitching and defense," Yost said.
The Tigers (36-32), who started the season with five straight wins over the Royals, are 6-14 at home since May 8 with an AL-worst 5.50 ERA and MLB-worst .297 opponent batting average. Overall, they've dropped 20 of 29.
"Really, for the most part, when we've struggled, our pitching has struggled," Ausmus said. "... Somehow, we've got to get that back on track."
After the Royals ripped Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer for 17 runs and 22 hits in the first two games of the series, now the Tigers' hottest pitcher tries to solve them.
Sanchez (3-2, 2.44 ERA) is 3-0 with a 1.91 ERA and .170 opponent batting average in his last seven starts. He beat Minnesota on Saturday, allowing three runs and four hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 12-9 victory.
He's been even stronger against Kansas City with an 0.99 ERA in five career starts, winning three and losing 1-0 games in the other two. Sanchez has won both outings against the Royals in Detroit with one run allowed in 16 1-3 innings.
No one in Kansas City's regular lineup has homered off Sanchez while he's held Perez (0 for 9), Mike Moustakas (1 for 10), Infante (3 for 18) and Eric Hosmer (3 for 16) in check.
He'll be opposed by Danny Duffy, who has been just as solid lately, going 2-0 with a 1.45 ERA and .164 opponent average in three starts this month. Duffy (4-5, 2.83) struck out a career high-tying nine in seven scoreless innings to earn the victory in Saturday's 9-1 win over the Chicago White Sox.
"Danny's been throwing the ball outstanding the last couple outings," Hosmer said. "It's really fun to see him kind of develop into a starting pitcher."
The 25-year-old Duffy is 1-4 with a 3.89 ERA in seven starts against Detroit. He has limited Austin Jackson to 2 for 14 and Alex Avila to 1 for 8. Avila is in a 1-for-14 slump.
Kansas City outfielder Nori Aoki sat out Wednesday after leaving the previous day with left groin discomfort.
Detroit outfielder Torii Hunter remained out with a hamstring issue.