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LAA@DET: Porcello fans six over six solid innings

This is it for the Tigers. They begin the last three-game series of the regular season, where they hope to clinch the American League Central and a postseason berth as early as Monday.

Detroit currently holds a three-game lead over Chicago, meaning the worst it can do is tie and force a Game 163.

Just last week, the Tigers swept the Royals in a four-game set at Comerica Park. It might be more difficult this time around at Kauffman Stadium. However, thanks to their recent play and some luck -- with Chicago losing 10 of its last 12 contests -- the Tigers need one win or a Sox loss to reach the playoffs.

The quest will begin on Monday, with Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello on the mound opposite Royals lefty Bruce Chen. For Porcello, this could be the outing that decides if he will be in the postseason starting rotation -- should the Tigers make it.

Porcello (9-12, 4.68 ERA) hasn't won a game since Aug. 7 against the Yankees, and is since winless in seven straight games. He's tallied two quality starts over that span, but not one in September.

In his latest start on Wednesday vs. Kansas City, Porcello's velocity dropped, prompting Tigers manager Jim Leyland to remove him after four innings. It was enough to put Monday's start in question.

"I just didn't like the way [the ball] was coming out," Leyland said after the game. "I was concerned about it. He said something in the third inning, and I didn't know about it at the time. But he said he had really no feel for it."

Fortunately for Detroit, everything checked out health-wise, and the skipper said he hoped the 10 days of rest between starts was the cause.

Meanwhile, the Tigers' offense will have its hands full with Chen, who has been tough on Detroit all season. In four starts against the Tigers, he's 1-3 but owns a 3.60 ERA -- with most of that damage coming in one game.

Chen faced Detroit at Kauffman Stadium back on Aug. 29, and held them scoreless on four hits through eight innings. The Tigers got 10 hits vs. Chen on Tuesday, but only two runs in 6 2/3 innings.

"I think what you saw in Chen was really the art of pitching at its best," Leyland said. "He pitched like a surgeon when he got the bases loaded, nobody out. ... He was an absolute surgeon."

Of course, the last time the Tigers ended the season vs. Kansas City was back in 2006, in the heat of the 2006 AL Central race when they were swept and lost the division title on the last day. Still, six years ago they took the Wild Card and eventually went to the World Series. They'll be working without that cushion in 2012.

Tigers: Cabrera enters last series vying for Triple Crown
• With three games remaining in the regular season, Miguel Cabrera continues to rank first in all Triple Crown categories. He ranks first in batting average (.325), just above Minnesota's Joe Mauer (.323); tied for first in home runs with Texas' Josh Hamilton (43); and first in RBIs (136), 10 ahead of Hamilton.

• Right-hander Max Scherzer (deltoid strain) threw on Sunday morning for about 10 minutes from 100 feet. Whether he starts the season finale on Wednesday is still unknown. But if Detroit makes the postseason, he's confident he'll be 100 percent.

"Everything went well," Scherzer said. "I was able to go from 100 feet pain-free, threw all my pitches and had a feel on all of them."

Should the Tigers clinch a postseason berth before Wednesday, Drew Smyly will get the start regardless of Scherzer's health. Scherzer would then be rested until Game 1 or 2 of the AL Division Series.

Royals: Moustakas leaves early
• Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas exited Sunday's game in the sixth inning with left groin tightness. Moustakas joined first baseman Eric Hosmer and shortstop Alcides Escobar, who have both been sitting out with shoulder injuries, as members of the infield who have been bitten by the injury bug.

If Moustakas doesn't play again this year, he will finish batting .242 with 20 home runs and 73 RBIs in his second season in the Majors.

Worth noting
• With his eighth-inning home run that put the Tigers on top, 2-1, against the Twins on Sunday, first baseman Prince Fielder reached the 30-homer plateau for the sixth straight season.

• With a stolen base on Sunday, Jarrod Dyson recorded his 30th of the season. He and Escobar became the first Royals teammates to have at least 30 since Willie Wilson (43) and Lonnie Smith (40) accomplished the feat in 1985.

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