KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Detroit Tigers are stumbling to the finish line. The Kansas City Royals intend to keep it that way for at least one more night.
The Tigers, who have lost nine straight, face the Royals on Thursday in the finale of a three-game series. A win would keep the Royals on track for a winning season, which they can achieve only by winning out.
The previous time the Tigers lost nine consecutive games was Sept. 1-9, 2005, and a loss Thursday would produce Detroit’s first double-digit losing streak since Aug. 13-23, 2003.
“It’s not fun,” said outfielder Alex Presley, who had three hits and walked in the Tigers’ 7-4 loss to the Royals on Wednesday. “Winning makes everything more fun, obviously, but you’ve got to try to keep your head together, like I said. Play like it’s tied, no matter what the score.
“Don’t give away at-bats. Keep grinding and finish strong. We play to win, even if things aren’t looking good, still play to win and everything else will just kind of iron itself out for you.”
The Tigers will start left-hander Daniel Norris in the series finale. Norris is 4-8 with a 5.59 ERA in 21 games (17 starts) this season for Detroit. He went 0-4 with a 12.21 ERA in six starts with Triple-A Toledo.
“He’s a perfectionist,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “He wants every pitch he throws to be the nastiest he’s ever thrown.”
In his latest start, Norris gave up five runs on seven hits and one walk in 4 2/3 innings in a loss to the Minnesota Twins on Friday.
Norris will be making his seventh career start against Kansas City. He is 0-2 with a 4.78 ERA against the Royals, striking out 23 in 32 innings. He is 0-1 with an 8.33 ERA in two appearances this year against the Royals. Norris is 0-0 with a 4.67 ERA in three career starts at Kauffman Stadium, fanning 13 in 17 1/3 innings.
Kansas City shortstop Alcides Escobar has a .571 average (8-for-14) with a home run and three RBIs against Norris. Alex Gordon is 5-for-9 (.556), while Eric Hosmer is only 2-for-15 (.133) vs. the left-hander.
The Royals will send left-hander Danny Duffy to the mound Thursday for his 24th and final start of the season.
Duffy (9-9, 3.68 ERA) is 2-0 with a 3.97 ERA in two starts this season against the Tigers, allowing five earned runs in 11 1/3 innings. He is 7-7 with a 3.86 ERA in his career against Detroit.
Duffy is 4-4 with a 3.12 ERA in nine home starts this season. He has a 3.41 ERA over the past two seasons at Kauffman Stadium.
He last pitched Saturday, when he allowed two runs on eight hits in six innings of an 8-2 road win against the Chicago White Sox.
“Tonight, we were able to make some pitches in some tough spots, and my changeup was really working for me tonight, and everything felt great,” Duffy said Saturday. “I just felt like I was in rhythm.”
The Royals are 11-7 against the Tigers this season, winning eight of the past nine.
“We’ve seen these guys so many times,” Ausmus said. “The bulk of their lineup we’ve seen for a number of years. There’s not a lot of secrets between the two teams.”
Left-hander Mike Minor was summoned to get the final two outs to preserve the lead Wednesday after Brandon Maurer gave up a couple of hits. Minor, who earned a save in a fourth consecutive appearance, has replaced Kelvin Herrera as the Royals’ closer.
“I think anybody would want that role,” Minor said.
If the Royals need a save Thursday, Minor likely would get the call.