For the first time since Opening Day, the Tigers will take the field Wednesday without the AL Central lead. The Royals, who they meet in the matinee, stole the top spot from them after Tuesday night's 11-4 victory.
Riding a nine game winning streak, Kansas City is now in sole possession of first place for the first time since May 1, 2013.
Detroit had a stranglehold on the division dating back to July 3 of last season. Even though the lead, which was as big as seven games, has evaporated, there doesn't seem to be much panic in the Tigers' clubhouse.
"I'm more concerned with who's in first place at the end of the season," first-year Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "We haven't played great baseball lately. The Royals have played outstanding lately. They've made a move up the ladder.
"Anything can happen over the course of the next few months."
On the mound for the Tigers as they attempt to regain the division lead that they had held for so long will be Drew Smyly. Despite the implications of this four-game series, which the Royals lead 2-0, the southpaw stopped short of calling it as big of a series as a team can play in June.
"They're all big," Smyly said. "We're going to play them again in July, August or September. They'll probably be big then too. It'll all even out in the end."
Walks have troubled Smyly at times this season, and he'll need to pay particular attention to them against a Royals lineup that combined to score 17 runs off Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer the past two nights.
"I feel like I've been walking more people than I usually do," Smyly said. "I've always just prided myself on not walking people. They're going to hit you, they're Major League hitters. One thing you can do is not put them on base by walks."
In 60 1/3 innings this season, Smyly has issued 23 free passes. Earlier this season, he pitched seven shutout innings at Kansas City.
Smyly will be opposed by right-hander Jeremy Guthrie, who is 3-6 with a 4.04 ERA this season.
Guthrie is coming off a start against the White Sox in which he snapped a winless streak that spanned 11 starts. He struck out nine and held Chicago to two runs over 5 2/3 innings.
Over his last five starts, Guthrie has allowed just one homer after surrendering 12 of them through his first nine outings.
Royals: Aoki day to day with groin injury
Royals right fielder Nori Aoki left Tuesday night's game in the second inning with what the trainers described as discomfort in his left groin muscle.
Aoki called it a cramp that he felt while running the bases in that inning.
"When I was running from third to home, I just felt my leg cramp up, right before I slid," he said.
Aoki said he didn't expect to be out long and might even be ready to play in Wednesday's game against the Tigers.
"It'll be a day to day thing," manager Ned Yost said. "He's got a little bit of a groin [injury]. Nick [Kenney, head trainer] doesn't think it's going to be more than a day or two."
Aoki was replaced in right field by Lorenzo Cain, the regular center fielder, who had been given a day off from the starting lineup. Cain took a home run away from J.D. Martinez with a leaping catch in the fourth inning.
Tigers: Hunter likely out for remainder of series
After leaving Monday night's game against Kansas City with a cramp in his hamstring, Torii Hunter also missed Tuesday night's contest.
He expects the injury to sideline him for the remaining two games of the important Royals series as well.
"Hopefully by the Cleveland series, I'll be ready to go," Hunter said.
The 38-year-old right fielder is officially listed as day to day.
• Royals catcher Salvador Perez is riding an 11-game hitting streak.
Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.