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Tigers, Royals surging toward playoffs

The Detroit Tigers made a run in July, but then went toward the middle of the pack in the American League. With only six weeks to play in the Major League Baseball regular season, it appeared Detroit would end up with the epitaph of a good team that didn’t have enough to reach October.

Now, suddenly, that is not the case. The Tigers have reeled off five wins in a row headed into Sunday. At 69-59, they are only one game behind the Baltimore Orioles for the second and final wild card spot in the postseason. Baltimore is also losing its best starter in Chris Tillman to the disabled list, so things are about to get even harder for the club in Charm City.

Meanwhile, the Kansas City Royals are suddenly back from the dead. After spending most of their post-All-Star break season  under .500, Kansas City is making an epic charge. Despite making moves that were consistent with a general manager giving up on the season, Dayton Moore is now watching his team push for a third straight playoff appearance.

Kansas City has won nine of its last 10 contests and sits only three games off Baltimore’s pace. While the Royals don’t have dominant pitching to rely on, they do have an emerging ace in Danny Duffy. Duffy, who was decent but not great early on, has vaulted himself into the Cy Young talk. The 27-year-old is finally making good on all the potential that has been inside him for years, posting an 11-1 record with a 2.66 ERA and 147 strikeouts.

Detroit is also relying on a young pitcher to help guide it through August and into September. While veteran Justin Verlander has finally discovered himself once again, it is the efforts of Michael Fulmer which is making the engine go in the Motor City. Fulmer, 23, is 10-4 with a 2.53 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP, showcasing elite stuff every five days. With Verlander and Fulmer cruising through opposing lineups, the Tigers finally have a rotation to go with Miguel Cabrera, J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton and Victor Martinez.

At this point, the Orioles still need to be considered the favorites to reach the playoffs. Baltimore has the lead, for one thing, and has a lineup that features names like Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop and Mark Trumbo. Those are some of the best hitters in baseball, and while the pitching is far from great, it has been good enough to win.

If nothing else, we have a much better race now, with the Royals and Tigers trying to make a push nobody thought was in them only a few weeks ago.

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