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. 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. 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.
The price here might be a bit high this evening but given the way the Tigers' offense has come together one would expect more of a slugfest compared to last night. Detroit is now hitting .270 collectively with 121 HR led by Cabrera (.329 31 104) who is putting up some MVP type numbers while remaining intimidating against opposing pitching. Fielder (.311 22 88) has certainly complemented Cabrera in the lineup turning around a slow start before the ASB. Austin Jackson (.306 13 53) has also been a versatile source at the plate right behind Cabrera iteam batting, and Delmon Young (.265 13 49) has remained relatively consistent. WIth Britton making a spot start, his O's are going to need plenty of run supportagainst this resurgent bunch. While Baltimore is right in the midst of a wildcard race with these same Tigers and Tampa Bay, their offense had slumped over a two week stretch and is only starting to see some positive signs again recently. While hitting only .244 they've slugged 148 HR led by Adam Jones (.293 24 61) who unfortunately has hit the majority of them via the solo variety. Wieters (.245 17 62) as done a great job behind the plate and continues to produce day in and day out. Chris Davis (.251 18 56) and JJ Hardy (.227 16 47) haven't been as consistent but Nick Markakis (.284 13 41) has picked up some key hits despite battling injuries and productivity below average. Porcello has had his ups and downs but could be one of the Tigers key contributors as we head towards the postseason. Best of luck however you play!