There aren't many Tigers remaining from the 2009 team that collapsed down the stretch, ending with a one-game tiebreaker loss to the Twins. That fall began in Kansas City, where Detroit had a 6 1/2-game lead in the American League Central with four weeks to go before they were swept by the Royals.
The Tigers that are still around, however, have made sure that lesson hasn't escaped their memory. With 3 1/2 weeks left in the regular season, they know better than to overlook games or teams.
"It's all about winning games," reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera said recently, repeating what has become his mantra over the second half.
Anibal Sanchez, who leads the AL with a 2.68 ERA, will take the hill on Friday night for the Tigers. After giving up two or fewer runs in seven straight starts, he's allowed seven runs on 11 hits in 11 2/3 innings over his past two outings.
The Royals will send out ace James Shields, who is coming off five consecutive quality starts. In his last outing against the Blue Jays, he struck out nine over seven shutout innings.
"I started throwing my changeup early," Shields said. "They knew it was coming, and I made a little adjustment at the end of the game and started throwing fastballs later in counts, and tried to get through seven."
Kansas City fell behind by a 5-0 score in its series finale against the Mariners, but then scored six runs to seize control. Seattle got a pinch-hit home run from Raul Ibanez with two outs in the ninth inning, but the Royals came back and won it on a Mike Moustakas homer in the 13th inning.
The Royals' pitching staff has allowed six runs in back-to-back games, and now it will get a taste of one of the league's most imposing batting orders. Detroit leads all AL teams with a .285 batting average and ranks second in the league in runs (707) and third in home runs (161).
Tigers: Miggy's situation unknown
Cabrera wasn't in the starting lineup on Wednesday, and there was very little clarity about when he would be back.
"He's sore today. That's all I can tell you," manager Jim Leyland said on Wednesday afternoon. "I can't tell you when he's going to play."
Cabrera has been dealing with an abdominal and groin strain for more than a month. In his quest for a second Triple Crown, Cabrera leads the AL in batting average (.355) and RBIs (130), while trailing Baltimore's Chris Davis in home runs (47 to 43).
• Leyland hinted that the Tigers' top prospect, Nick Castellanos, could make his first Major League start in left field this weekend. Castellanos led the International League with 81 runs scored and was second with 147 hits.
Royals: Escobar tops list for consecutive steals
Shortstop Alcides Escobar set a new franchise single-season record with 18 consecutive steals on Monday. It's also the longest active streak in the Major Leagues.
"I didn't even know that until yesterday when it was on the scoreboard," Escobar said. "Being in Kansas City and leading them all-time in the record is good. I am so happy for that."
Escobar eclipsed Gary Thurman's mark of 16 straight in 1989 and has swiped 25 consecutive bases overall dating to last season. Carlos Beltran owns that Royals record of 33 in a row over three seasons.
The Royals stole nine bases, including one by Escobar, against the Tigers in a recent five-game series last month. Escobar went 0-for-6 in the victory over Seattle on Thursday.
• Cabrera has been dominant against Shields, batting .421 with six doubles, two home runs and six RBIs in 38 career at-bats.
• Shields is 1-1 with a 2.48 ERA in four starts against the Tigers this season. He's allowed eight runs on 24 hits in 29 innings while striking out 17.
Bobby Nightengale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.