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KC@BAL: Shields tosses seven innings of two-run ball

Rick Porcello escaped April, historically his worst month, with a 3-1 record. Now comes what historically has been his best month of the year.

While the Tigers' right-hander owns a 6.12 career ERA for April, he's 13-6 with a 3.16 ERA in 25 career May starts, including three quality starts in five May outings last season. His first start of May 2014 will come Friday in the first of a three-game series at the Royals.

Porcello has shown flashes of that form so far this season, though not with the same rate of strikeouts. He'll be hard pressed to find that against a Royals offense that hasn't fanned often against him, just 53 times over 89 career innings. He hasn't fanned more than four Royals in a game since 2011, and he has never topped five.

The Tigers have opened up their current seven-game road trip 3-1, splitting two at Minnesota and winning two in Chicago from the White Sox. After Thursday's off-day, Detroit plays 13 straight games and will have to wait exactly two weeks for another breather.

"I think this off-day really should kind of do it for us," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "We have fewer off-days on the horizon, and hopefully the weather will take for a turn for the better now as we move into May. April showers should be gone. May flowers should be blooming."

Porcello will likely need zeros to keep up with James Shields, who engaged the Tigers in a pitching duel opposite Justin Verlander on Opening Day at Comerica Park before taking a no-decision. He has won his last three starts overall, all on the road, but has only one win in six meetings with Detroit since joining the Royals last year.

Kansas City lost both games in that opening series -- the third game was rained out -- after posting a winning record, 10-9, against the Tigers last year. That included a 6-3 mark at Kauffman Stadium.

Royals: Chen likely to land on DL

Left-hander Bruce Chen was scratched from his Saturday start against the Tigers, and the Royals are likely to put him on the 15-day disabled list.

Chen was supposed to throw a side session on Thursday to test his readiness to pitch after missing a scheduled start on Wednesday night because of lower back problems.

"He just didn't feel good," manager Ned Yost said. "His back was still stiff and he still felt some pain, even when he was warming up. He didn't even get to the mound."

Left-hander Danny Duffy, despite big problems in his last two relief outings, is the likely substitute for Chen on Saturday.

"Yep, a possibility," Yost said.

Tigers: Avila expected back for opener

Catcher Alex Avila missed both ends of the just-finished two-game set against the White Sox with lower back spasms, but he is expected back for the series opener in Kansas City.

"My back was getting a little tight when we were doing early BP [on Tuesday]," Avila said. "When I came back in [the clubhouse] it hit me like a freight train, tightened up, spasmed and I was kind of bent over for the rest of the day. I couldn't stand up straight."

Avila can use the off-day to rest and hopes he'll feel better by Friday. He said he was able to walk around more easily and stand up straighter Wednesday, and he would be willing to play through some soreness on Friday.

Backup backstop Bryan Holaday had in impressive two games in Chicago, laying down the game-winning bunt single on Tuesday and adding a two-run double in Wednesday's win over the White Sox.

Worth noting

• Detroit is 10-1 when scoring five or more runs.

• With a double in Wednesday's 5-1 win over the White Sox, Torii Hunter extended his hitting streak to a season-high eight games. He's hitting .400 with five doubles, three RBIs and four runs scored in that span.

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