The Detroit Tigers got back to work earlier than most teams after the All-Star break. After another breather, they open a five-game homestand against the Minnesota Twins on Saturday.
Detroit played a doubleheader at Oakland on Thursday, winning the opener 7-2 and getting silenced 5-0 in the nightcap.
“One good, one bad,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “We felt good, we had a chance to win both games, then had a blow-up inning at the wrong time in a game we didn’t score.”
Robbie Grossman, one of many Tigers who struggled through the first half of the season, had two doubles and drove in three runs in the first game.
“We need to get him started,” Hinch said. “He had a rough first half, but that doesn’t mean it has to define his year.”
Jeimer Candelario added a solo homer in Game 1. The second game was much more typical of Detroit’s season, as it produced just four hits while six Oakland pitchers combined to strike out 12 batters. Detroit, the lowest-scoring team in the majors, was blanked for the 14th time this season.
Minnesota, which held a two-game lead in the American League Central at the break, got an extended layoff. The Twins acted as though they needed the rest, as they lost seven of their last 10 games before the break, including three of four to one of their pursuers, the Chicago White Sox.
“There were more good things going on in our first half than bad things,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I like what I saw overall. We have a lot of areas where we can still improve, though, and we don’t hesitate to talk about that with our group and what we need to do.”
The Twins are juiced by the prospect of a pennant race.
“This time of year is when things start kind of moving, and it’s something we’re all excited to see where we’re at on the other side of this,” reliever Tyler Duffey said. “We’re a first-place team, and had a bad series against the White Sox.”
“What I like most about this first half is we haven’t played our best baseball and we’re in the position that we’re in,” starting pitcher Chris Archer added.
The Tigers will have former Twin Michael Pineda on the mound to start the two-game series. Pineda (2-5, 5.22 ERA) was clobbered in his most recent outing, giving up eight runs and nine hits in two innings at Cleveland. Pineda has a 7.79 ERA in four starts since recovering from a fractured finger on his pitching hand.
Pineda allowed three homers and four runs overall in five innings in a loss to the Twins on April 27.
He’ll be opposed by Joe Ryan (6-3, 2.99 ERA). Ryan hasn’t taken the mound since July 13, when he gave up one run on two hits in 5 1/3 innings in a no-decision against Milwaukee.
Ryan dominated the Tigers in the same game Pineda pitched, as he held them scoreless in seven innings. He allowed just one hit and struck out a season-best nine.
Minnesota outfielder Byron Buxton will be playing his first game since homering in the All-Star Game. Buxton reached the break with 23 homers, but surprisingly, none have come against Detroit. He has just three singles in 34 at-bats against the Tigers this season.
–Field Level Media