Three more games.
After dropping two of three in New York against the Mets, then two of thee in Atlanta, the Tigers make one final stop on their current nine game road trip. The joys of National League play behind them, Detroit will once again play with a full squad, back in the friendly confines of intra-league games.
The good news is that Jim Leyland will no longer be tempted to screw with the lineup, he’ll have all four of his outfielders at his disposal for these games. The bad news is that these next three games take place in Minnesota. But hey, at least they’re not at the Metrodome.
The Tigers will make their second trip to the Twin Cities tonight, following a three game sweep at the hands of the Twins May 3-5. In that series, the Tigers used Max Scherzer (before his demotion), Dontrelle Willis, and Rick Porcello. They fell behind in every game with the Twins scoring at least two runs in the first inning of each game. Detroit never lead at any point in any of those games.
Things should be different this time around. For starters, Willis (now with Arizona) and Porcello (dominating in Toledo) won’t be appearing in this series. The Tigers, losers of 10 of their last 14 road tilts, will open the series with Jeremy Bonderman facing off with Francisco Liriano. (more after the jump)
Liriano has finally made it back to his 2006 form after years of struggles following Tommy John surgery. His 6-5 record hides the success that his 3.11 ERA shows. He has pitched very well in his past four starts against the Tigers, posting a 3-0 record and 2.15 ERA in that span. He struck out 10 over eight innings while allowing just four hits in a 2-0 win at Comerica Park on April 27.
In his career, Liriano has enjoyed good success against Brandon Inge (4-for-23, 11 K), Gerald Laird (2-for-9, 4 K), and Ryan Raburn (2-for-9, 3 K), but Magglio Ordonez (8-for-24, 2 HR, 8 RBI) has hit him well.
Bonderman (3-5, 4.20) has been perhaps the best the Tigers can offer over his past 10 starts. Though he’s just 2-4 in that stretch, he has a 3.26 ERA and has allowed just 61 hits over his past 61 innings while yielding 12 walks and striking out 45. In his past two starts away from home, however, Bonderman has been touched up for 18 hits and 11 earned runs in just 11.2 innings, both losses.
Watch out for Joe Mauer (8-for-23, HR), Jim Thome (6-for-21, 3HR), Micheal Cuddyer (9-for-29) and Delmon Young (4-for-9) against Bonderman, but Justin Morneau (5-for-27) and Jason Kubel (3-for-14) have struggled.
Tuesday offers Armando Galarraga for the Tigers facing off with Nick Blackburn. Galarraga (3-1, 3.78) has been better than expected this season and the Tigers have won each of his past five starts. Galarraga is anything but overpowering, however, and has posted an ERA of 4.70 in the four starts since his pseudo-perfect game. He is just 1-5 career versus the Twins, holding a 5.48 ERA in nine games (seven starts).
Blackburn (6-5, 6.10) gives the Tigers what should be their best chance to win as he has really struggled in the Month of June, going 0-4 in five starts and yielding a 12.05 ERA in that time. After allowing a league-high 240 hits last year, Blackburn has already given up 111 hits in just 78.2 innings this season. He is 3-3 career versus Detroit including a complete game victory on May 4, when he beat the Tigers 4-3, despite allowing 11 hits.
The Wednesday match-up is Kevin Slowey for Minnesota taking on Tigers rookie Andy Oliver, who will be making just his second big league start. Oliver (0-1, 3.00) pitched well enough to earn a second start despite losing to the Braves on Friday.
Slowey (7-5, 4.79) earned a win on May 5 against the Tigers despite giving up three homers (two by Miguel Cabrera, one to Alex Avila) in that game, a 5-4 decision in which Avila later added a second homer and all four Tigers runs came on solo shots. Slowey has hit the skids recently, however, getting knocked around in each of his past three starts, posting a 12.41 ERA over his past 12.1 innings. Despite a 5.93 ERA in six career starts versus Detroit, Slowey has gone 4-0 in those games.
Finally, just because it seems silly to write a post these days without mentioning Brennan Boesch; Boesch has a higher average at Target Field than any park at which he has played at least one game. He was 5-for-11 during the first trip to Minnesota including one home run, a solo shot against Blackburn.