This was supposed to be Kansas City's most important series in at least a decade, a matchup against Detroit that featured the top two teams in the AL Central.
However, after a lackluster 5-1 loss to the Tigers on Saturday night dropped that dropped the Royals 7 1/2 games back, Kansas City is facing at the possibility of getting swept in the four-game series.
"They're playing better than us," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "They're pitching better and they're hitting better. But mostly they're swinging the bats much better."
Rick Porcello (12-5) outpitched James Shields as the Tigers won their fifth in a row. He also raised his career record against Kansas City to 8-3 while yielding six hits and one run through seven innings.
While scoring only one run in each of their last two games against Tiger pitching, the Royals are 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position.
"The bottom line is you're either getting it done or you're not getting it done," Yost said. "We're not getting it done."
In the meantime, the Tigers are wondering why Porcello, who is tied for the league lead with 12 wins, is not headed for the All-Star game.
"I think he clearly is an All-Star," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "He's got 12 wins, An ERA in the low 3s. There's going to be snubs every year at the All-Star break and I think he's clearly a snub."
Porcello, who has won four of his last five decisions and been key in Detroit's taking a big lead in the division, if fine whether or not he's picked for the game.
"That's not my decision," he said. "I just go out there and pitch and let everybody else take care of that."
His teammates clearly believe Porcello deserves to be there when the game's elite are introduced.
"We all thought he definitely deserved (a selection), but I will say that is a tough group he was in, that final vote," said Tiger catcher Alex Avila, who drove in three runs with a single and a ninth-inning homer. "All those guys did deserve it, too. There's always going to be a guy who gets left out."
The Royals have lost six of their last eight. They are 0-6 at home against Detroit this year.
"To this point, we've underachieved but we're still seven games better than we were at this point last year," said manager Ned Yost. "We know we're a second-half club. We've been a second-half club."
Shields (9-5) allowed two runs and seven hits in seven innings. He struck out eight and walked none while throwing 121 pitches.
The Tigers scored three in the ninth against reliever Aaron Crow, starting with J.D. Martinez's leadoff home run.
Nick Castellanos was safe at first after a replay review overturned a call, and Avila hit a 427-foot homer.
Ian Kinsler's RBI single put the Tigers on top 1-0 in the third.
In the fourth, Torii Hunter hit a drive into straightaway center field over the head of Jarrod Dyson and turned it into his first triple of the season. The relay throw actually beat the sliding Hunter to the bag, but he was safe when third baseman Mike Moustakas failed to get the tag down. Avila's RBI single made it 2-0.
Billy Butler had a sacrifice fly in the sixth after the Royals had wasted several scoring chances.
Alcides Escobar bounced into an inning-ending double play in the second, Lorenzo Cain did the same in the third and then, with the bases loaded and two out in the fifth, Porcello struck out Cain on a 2-2 pitch.
Al Alburquerque pitched a perfect ninth for the Tigers, who held the Royals to one run for the second night in a row.
NOTES: Cain made a terrific catch of Miguel Cabrera's opposite-field drive in the first, snaring the ball just as he crashed hard into the wall. ... Both starters labored, but after four innings, Shields had thrown 78 pitches and Porcello 40. ... It was the 12th time in his career that Shields has thrown 121 or more pitches. ... Eric Hosmer's first-inning single stretched his hitting streak to a career-best 12 games for the Royals.
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