The Tigers open a three game set in Kansas City tonight as they try to salt away the division. Detroit has shuffled their rotation a bit due to yesterday’s off day, during which, both Minnesota and Chicago won to gain a half game of Detroit.
Rick Porcello gets the ball tonight against lefty Bruce Chen. Porcello continues to impress as a 20-year-old rookie, showing no signs of wilting in the midst of the pennant race. Porcello (12-8, 4.18) has made two starts against the Royals this year, both coming in Kansas City. He has split two decisions while posting an ERA of 4.50, though he has held the Royals to a .195 batting average in those starts. Mark Teahen has homered twice in five AB’s versus Porcello.
Chen will make his first start since August 6, and is just 1-6 on the season. This start will be his third appearance (second start) against Detroit this season. He has allowed seven earned runs and three homers in 6.2 innings against the Tigers in 2009, posting an 0-1 record.
Noted slugger Placido Polanco has two career homers off of Chen and a .364 average in 11 at bats. Brandon Inge is 0-11 career against the Royals’ lefty, while Aubrey Huff has gone 7-20. Even given those numbers, Huff will likely sit against the left hander, as has been the case since coming to the Tigers in mid-August.
The Twins are still hanging around, and their upcoming schedule should permit them to do so for a little while longer.
Coming off yesterday’s 6-3 win in Toronto, the Twins are now 6.5 games behind the first place Tigers. Minnesota has two more in the Rogers Centre before heading home for a nine game home stand.
If the Twins can split the next two against the Blue Jays, they then get Oakland and Cleveland at home for three games apiece before Detroit comes calling. If the Twins plan on making noise down the stretch, this is where they have to get hot.
While the Twins enjoy a relatively easy schedule over the next eight, the White Sox, now 7.5 games behind Detroit, don’t get that luxury. Chicago hosts Oakland for a short two gamer before starting a west coast road trip that takes them through Los Angeles and Seattle.
Even if they can sweep the A’s, Chicago must then win at least four of the six games out west to concieveably still be in the race. Even then, if the Tigers can tread water, Chicago is probably too far back to matter.
The next ten games for Detroit are all very winnable. Detroit starts a three game set in Kansas City tonight, then returns home for four games with Toronto before the Royals make a return trip to the CoPa for three.
A 6-4 record over those next ten games seems well within reason. If Detroit can do that, they would have a comfortable edge on either of their two nearest competitors as they head into the final stretch of games.
The last two weeks of the season will still be the biggest in terms of determining the final outcome of the standings. Detroit plays Chicago six more times and plays the Twins seven more times. But unless one or both of those teams gets very hot starting today, by the time those end of season matchups roll around, there will be too much ground to make up.