Cabrera heating up as season progresses

Miguel Cabrera, in his ninth season with the Tigers, enters Monday's game with 999 RBIs with the team. Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

In third place in the American League wild-card standings, the Detroit Tigers open a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals on Monday night (7 ET, ESPN/WatchESPN).

We take a look at the top stats to know about the game.

Cabrera on verge of milestone with Tigers

Miguel Cabrera, who was traded to the Tigers from the Marlins before the 2008 season, has 999 RBIs with his current team. His next RBI will make him the eighth player to reach 1,000 RBIs with the Tigers (RBIs became an official stat beginning in 1920).

Cabrera’s offensive numbers have improved as the season has progressed, as this chart indicates.

The last two seasons, Cabrera has hit to the opposite field at the highest rates in the eight seasons for which we have data. He’s going the other way on 32 percent of his balls in play this season, 1 percentage point lower than last season.

This month, Cabrera is turning in an opposite-field rate that's above average even for him: 39 percent.

He has 11 opposite-field home runs this season, most in the majors. He has 50 since the start of 2011, the most in baseball, one more than Joey Votto.

Cabrera has 435 home runs in his career, third among active players. He is one of six players in major league history with 400 home runs and a .320 batting average.

Kennedy still giving up home runs

Ian Kennedy signed with the Royals after having the worst home run percentage (4.3 percent) of 78 qualified pitchers in 2015 with the San Diego Padres. This year, that number is up to 4.8 percent, second-worst of 89 qualifiers.

Opponents are batting .202 against Kennedy’s fastball, the third-lowest batting average among qualifying pitchers, behind Jake Arrieta and Rick Porcello. That is on track to be the lowest average against Kennedy’s fastball in the eight seasons for which we have data. His low was .229 in 2011 with the Arizona Diamondbacks, when he finished fourth in the National League Cy Young Award voting.

Kennedy is throwing his fastball in the strike zone more, and he’s getting more swings and misses with it. He already has more strikeouts (101) with his fastball than he did last season (85). His average fastball velocity of 92 mph is the hardest he’s thrown in the last eight seasons.

Kennedy hasn’t won a start since June 26, when he beat the Houston Astros, 6-1. The Royals had lost each of Kennedy’s last seven starts before they beat the Chicago White Sox, 3-2, on Wednesday. Kennedy allowed one earned run in 6 1/3 innings in that start.

Tigers’ pitching picking up

The Royals (4.22) and Tigers (4.23) rank near the middle of the pack in team ERA, but since the All-Star break, the Tigers have had the stronger pitching.

The Tigers’ 3.16 ERA in the second half is second-best in the AL behind the 3.12 of the Tampa Bay Rays. The Royals (4.35) rank in the lower third of AL teams in second-half ERA.

Daniel Norris, the Tigers’ starter Monday, has made 17 starts at three minor league levels this season. Monday’s game will be his sixth game (fifth start) with the Tigers this season. He has a 4.00 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP in the majors this year.

Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Cabrera would be the 11th player to reach 1,000 RBIs with the Tigers.