Minneapolis — Alex Avila isn't buying it.
After a couple bench-clearing brawls in the span of a week, the Royals are being dubbed the Bad Boys of baseball.
"No," was the catcher's answer to what he thought of that. "We've been playing them a long time. We play them quite a bit every single year and it's been the same group of guys for quite a while. We know them and they know us. Yeah, they got in some scuffles, they threw at guys and guys threw at them.
"But we know who they are and they know who we are. There won't be any surprises."
The Tigers and Royals commence their 19-game divisional series tonight. Even though the Tigers have won four straight division titles, it was the Royals who won the American League championship last season and played in the World Series.
"Every year they've been the team that with a lot of talent that's trying to catch us and get to where we've been," Avila said. "Last year they had an unbelievable season and right now, all those guys they've been counting on have a lot of confidence.
"It's just going to make it more fun."
The Royals entered play Wednesday a game ahead of the Tigers. Mike Moustakas (.346), Lorenzo Cain (.342), Salvador Perez (.333), Kendrys Morales (.328) and Eric Hosmer (.316) are off to fast starts offensively. And, like last year, the back end of their bullpen is the stingiest in baseball.
"They are a good team and we are a good team, and we are playing a four-game extended series," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "It's going to be a good series. I don't think it's a 'big' series, but anytime you play a team in your division, it's an important series."
Kinsler thinks the "Bad Boys" stuff is overplayed by the media, a consequence of two incidents happening so close together.
"They're a good team," he said. "It seems like they all have each other's backs and have a good tight team. We feel the same way about our guys in here. We're a professional team and we play the game hard and the right way. They do it, too.
"They just got caught up in a couple of instances so far."
The Tigers were 13-6 against the Royals last season, 8-2 at Kauffman Stadium, and outscored them 100-66.
Kinsler was asked if he thought the Royals were carrying a chip on their shoulder.
"You can get a chip on your shoulder, you can play with a got-to-prove-it attitude," he said. "But fighting, to me, that's not the way you are supposed to win games. We will see what happens. We are up for the challenge. Regardless of what it is, we will be ready."
Around the horn
Andrew Romine hadn't started since April 11, and had three at-bats since. Yet, he produced a career-best four singles Wednesday.
How does he stay ready?
"A lot of work," he said. "If you are not able to get live at-bats, you have to find some other way to get them, whether it's standing in on a bullpen session or firing up the machine in the cage. We have a good routine going, getting ready in a certain way, that's putting me in a position to be available and ready."
… Nick Castellanos, with a double in the fifth inning, snapped an 0-for-15 skid.
… Miguel Cabrera has 14 multiple home run games the last five seasons, most in the majors. He has 32 in his career.
… Left-hander Tom Gorzelanny, who spent his career in the National League until this season, earned his first victory in the American League. Asked if he kept the ball, he laughed and said, "No, I did not."
On deck: Royals
Series: Four games, tonight-Sunday, Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Mo.
First pitch: 8:10 tonight-Friday, 7:10 p.m. Saturday, 2:10 p.m. Sunday
Probables: Tonight — RHP Alfredo Simon (4-0, 1.65) vs. LHP Danny Duffy (1-0, 4.15). Friday — LHP Kyle Lobstein (2-1, 3.50) vs. TBA. Saturday — LHP David Price (2-1, 3.48) vs. RHP Edinson Volquez (2-2, 1.91). Sunday – Anibal Sanchez (1-3, 5.46) vs. LHP Jason Vargas (2-1, 5.95)
■Simon: He has allowed one run or less his last three starts. He hasn't faced the Royals since 2011 when he was with the Orioles, but is 3-1 against them with a 3.18 ERA. Any scouting reports from those days are outdated — Simon was a straight power pitcher then, and now has command of five pitches.
■Duffy: He's yet to pitch more than 61/3 innings his first four starts. He is 1-6 lifetime against the Tigers, but has pitched well against them. He was 0-3 last year, but his ERA was 2.12. He gave up four runs in those three starts.