DETROIT – Buoyed by their dominant play at home, the Detroit Tigers have been the best team in the American League for nearly two months.
A few more wins and they could be the best team in the AL Central very shortly.
Detroit seeks a fourth straight victory overall and fourth in five games this season against the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday night.
One of baseball’s most disappointing teams for much of this season, the Tigers (64-55) are looking more and more like the club most believed they would be.
No AL team has been better since June 28 than Detroit, which has won 28 of 44 during that span to pull within 1 1/2 games of Central-leading Chicago. The Tigers also are near the top of the wild-card standings in a race that involves the Orioles (64-55) and several other teams.
After winning the final two games on their road trip, the Tigers opened a nine-game homestand Friday with a come-from-behind 5-3 win over Baltimore. Prince Fielder’s second two-run homer of the game snapped an eighth-inning tie and gave Detroit its 17th win in 20 games at Comerica Park.
Miguel Cabrera went deep for the 31st time and is 10 for 20 with two homers and eight RBIs in his last five games. The Tigers slugger has a 13-game hitting streak against Baltimore, batting .521 (25 for 48) with eight home runs and 14 RBIs in that stretch.
“We got the big blows from the big guys,” manager Jim Leyland said. “There’s no defense for those.”
Matt Wieters hit a two-run homer off Justin Verlander in the fifth, but Baltimore went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position in its second consecutive loss. The Orioles are 3 for 33 (.091) in such situations against the Tigers this season.
Keeping opposing offenses down has been a problem lately for Detroit’s Rick Porcello (9-7, 4.68 ERA), who has a 5.40 ERA and a .329 batting average against in his past seven starts. Texas became the latest team to hit the right-hander hard, reaching him for six runs and nine hits over six innings en route to an 8-3 win Sunday.
Porcello has, however, pitched well in his last two outings at home, winning both behind a 2.45 ERA.
He is 1-0 with a 3.55 ERA in two starts against the Orioles, beating them as a 20-year-old rookie in 2009.
J.J. Hardy is 4 for 6 lifetime versus Porcello while Nick Markakis is 5 for 11 with a homer in their matchups.
Baltimore will send struggling Zach Britton (1-1, 8.10) to the mound. After managing only one quality outing in his first five starts, the left-hander was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Aug. 7 hours after he allowed seven runs – four earned – and eight hits over five innings against Seattle in a game the Orioles eventually won in 14.
Britton didn’t fare any better in the minors, allowing six runs over 3 2-3 innings Monday.
“I think sometimes you put too much pressure on yourself to compete and you forget about executing pitches,” Britton told the team’s official website. “That’s really what I need to do now.”
He was reached for five runs, six hits and four walks over five innings against Detroit on Sept. 22 but was credited with the victory.
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