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KC Royals can play spoiler role for Detroit Tigers' playoff hopes

The Royals can work to ruin Detroit's playoff dreams in the next three nights. Will that be motivation to finish the season strong?

Jason Miller - Getty Images

Despite being a few weeks removed from playoff contention, the Kansas City Royals can still have an impact on the postseason as they close the 2012 season with three games against the Detroit Tigers starting tonight.

While the Royals are just 71-88, the Tigers currently hold a three-game lead in the American League Central division with a record of 86-73. That three-game lead is over the Chicago White Sox, who are in Cleveland to play the Indians.

What would the Royals have to do to spoil the Tigers' playoff hopes? Sweep the series. While that task seems tall given that Detroit has won 11 of 15 against Kansas City this season, the Royals did claim a three-game sweep of the Tigers at the end of August -- three one-point wins in a row.

Of course, for such a sweep to bounce the Tigers from the playoffs, the White Sox can't lose any of their last three, either.

Whether or not this works as motivation for the Royals remains to be seen, but Bruce Chen (11-13, 5.13 ERA) takes the mound against Detroit's Rick Porcello (9-12, 4.68) at 7:10 p.m. CT tonight.