Tigers, Actually, Set Up For Success This Week In Minnesota
A half-game separates the first-place Twins and the second-place Tigers in the American League Central standings. It's late June, the time of the year when the contenders tend to separate themselves from the pretenders. It's three games in Minnesota, where the Tigers have traditionally struggled mightily, including at the Twins' new ball park. The Tigers were swept in a three-game series there earlier in the season. The Tigers, in fact, have generally played poor baseball on the road the last two years. It's been awhile since they have won a road series, although they did manage to win series finales in New York against the Mets and at Atlanta. But the pressure is on the Twins this week. They are the club on the verge of collapsing. The Tigers have made up four full games on the Twins since June 11. The White Sox have been roaring back from a slow start, and are only 1 1-2 games out of first. I wrote a column recently (Here's a link to it: http://tinyurl.com/29jodc5) about how much dislike the Tigers and their fans should have toward the Twins, who have constantly ripped out their collective heart out since 1987. They tend to love those pesky small-market Twins anyway. There is an opportunity for the Tigers in the next three days to show this year is different. The pitching matchup tonight is brutal for the Tigers. Francisco Liriano shutout the Tigers for eight innings and struck out 10 his first outing against Detroit this season. The Twins should hit Jeremy Bonderman. If the Tigers win tonight, it will be surprising, but something to built upon in the series. That's because in Game 2, they face Nick Blackburn, who hasn't made it out of the fourth inning in four of his last five starts, and his ERA overall has jumped over six. Armando Galarraga has pitched reasonably well for the Tigers. Wednesday, the Tigers will give rookie lefty Andrew Oliver another start. He earned it with an impressive performance Friday at Atlanta. Kevin Slowey, the Twins' starter Wednesday, has an ERA over six in June. Even without Justin Verlander starting in this series, it does seem like the Tigers have been set up for success in Minnesota. Certainly better than most times they visit. Whether they take advantage of it is another story. First time in, the Twins swept the Tigers, despite missing Joe Mauer, who was out with injury. Bad things tend to snowball against the Tigers in Minnesota. Same, frankly, in Chicago. That has to change if the Tigers are really going to be contenders, not just one of the many fringe teams, or one of those teams that is annually prone to an inevitable collapse - the Tigers' modus operandi in the past.