The roller coaster that has been the Detroit Tigers road play pulls into the friendly station of Comerica Park, for a four game weekend series with the Toronto Blue Jays. The last bizarro road trip saw the Tigers sweep three in Tampa Bay and then drop three straight in Kansas City. Perhaps this season is beginning to look a lot like 2006 with the Royals once again doing their best to spoil September baseball in Detroit.
The mathematics suggest the Tigers will be Central Division champions. What remains to be seen is whether or not the Tigers can finish the season with the appearance of a legitimate division champion rather than an also ran from the weak central.
The Tigers have an impressive 45-22 home record that ranks behind only the Yankees and Red Sox. A history of home success and a late season match-up with a team out of contention means the Tigers can settle for no less than a series win. The Jays took three out of four in Toronto to begin the season. It's time to return the favor.
Friday, Sept. 11, 7:05 PM
Brian Tallet (6-9, 5.31) vs. Nate Robertson (1-1, 5.40)
Nate Robertson has seized control over the fifth spot in the starting rotation with two strong starts since his return from the disabled list, allowing just one earned run in ten and two thirds innings. Don't be surprised to see another short outing as the Tigers will be careful to limit his pitches.
Nate faced the Blue Jays in relief appearances on Apr. 6 and 9 and posted a 5.40 ERA while striking out three.
Robertson's position as the "lead off" pitcher in an important series is nothing new. Jim Leyland elected to start Robertson in game one of the 2006 American League Divisional Series and Championship Series. Nate brings a bulldog mentality to the mound and finds most success when challenging batters.
Like Robertson, Brian Tallet began the year in the bullpen. He didn't allow a run in either inning of work in relief against the Tigers in April. Tallet has had a rough go of it in his last two starts. The record doesn't look bad at 1-1 but nine earned runs on nine hits and seven walks tell the story.
Aubrey Huff is the only Tiger with a hit off Tallet, but the opportunities have been limited. It will be important for Tiger hitters to take advantage of this mediocre pitcher.
Saturday, Sept. 12, 7:05 PM
Scott Richmond (6-9, 4.76) vs. Edwin Jackson (12-6, 3.10)
Scott Richmond has given up at least three earned runs in seven straight starts. His ERA has gone up from 3.69 to 4.76 over that time. If the Tiger bats perform like they did in Tampa Bay and not Kansas City, then Richmond may see that number go even higher.
Richmond may have an advantage in that this will be his first appearance against the Tigers. Aubrey Huff is the only member of the team that has faced Richmond because of his time in Baltimore. Perhaps Huff can offer his teammates some advice on what to expect.
Edwin Jackson looks to make it five wins in his last six starts. Jackson pitched seven and a third innings of two run ball against the Jays on April 7 that saw the Tigers lose an early season thriller.
The Tigers seem to consistently hang Jackson out to dry with poor offensive production during his starts. Some home cooking to feast on Jays pitching would be a tasty recipe.
Sunday, Sept. 13, 1:05 PM
Ricky Romero (12-7, 4.14) vs. Rick Porcello (12-8, 4.26)
Sunday's match-up features two of the best rookie pitchers in all of baseball as Ricky Romero and Rick Porcello face off for the second time this season. Romero was able to out duel Porcello back on April 9 in Toronto as both pitchers made their major league debut. This time Porcello has the luxury of a home crowd and pennant fever.
Porcello has won his last three decisions at home and has already set the franchise record for most wins prior to reaching age 21. The best chances for the Blue Jays to get to Porcello will be very early and very late. Porcello's has a 7.97 ERA in his first 15 pitches and a 10.80 ERA for pitches 91-105. His season ERA of 4.26 shows just how good he has been in between.
Ricky Romero bounced back with a win over the Twins in his last start after losing consecutive starts for just the second time this season. The Tigers should take a patient approach with Romero because he has walked at least three batters in each of his last three outings.
This game could go a long way in the rookie of the year voting. Porcello and Romero are tied with Tampa Bay's Jeff Niemann for most wins by a rookie pitcher.
Monday, Sept. 14, 7:05 PM
David Purcey (0-2, 7.01) vs. Justin Verlander (16-8, 3.24)
Justin Verlander was denied his 17th win in his last outing as the offense was quiet and the bullpen faltered. Justin sits just three strike outs behind Tim Lincecum for the most K's in the Majors. Lincecum missed his last start with a back problem which opened the door for Verlander to track him down and add to his Cy Young resume.
The Blue Jays roughed up Verlander for eight runs in three and two thirds innings on opening day. As fans know, that Justin Verlander was very different from the Justin Verlander we've seen since out-dueling CC Sabathia on April 27. Verlander's nasty streak will ensure the Blue Jays find out just how different of a pitcher he has become.
David Purcey rejoins the Blue Jays rotation for Brett Cecil who has been shut down. Purcey began the season with the big club but was sent to AAA after an unsuccessful April. Purcey did show flashes of potential such as a ten strike out performance against Cleveland in less than five innings of work. However, the ten K's were offset by six walks.
The Tigers will be facing Purcey for the second time this year. Purcey got a no decision after pitching seven innings in Toronto's 5-4 win on April 7. Miguel Cabrera reached base three times against Purcey with a single and two walks.
Around the AL Central
Tigers: TOR 9/11-9/14, KAN 9/15-9/17
Twins: OAK 9/11-9/13, CLE 9/14-9/16
White Sox: @LAA 9/11-9/13, @SEA 9/15-9/17
Indians: KAN 9/11-9/13, @MIN 9/14-9/16
Royals: @CLE 9/11-9/13, @DET 9/15-9/17
The Tigers magic number is 18. This is the total number of Tiger wins and second place team losses needed for the Tigers to secure their first division championship since 1987.
This article is also published on The Mitten Sports Report