The Minnesota Twins have been in control of the AL Central virtually the entire season, but that won't be the case much longer if they can't break out of their slump.
Clinging to a one-half game lead over Detroit, the Twins open a key three-game series against the Tigers on Monday night at Target Field.
Minnesota (41-34) is likely glad interleague play is over after going 5-9 against NL opponents since June 12. That disappointing stretch cut four games off the Twins' division lead over the Tigers (40-34).
Most of Minnesota's recent troubles have come away from home, as the team completed a 3-6 trip to Philadelphia, Milwaukee and New York. The Twins lost to the Mets 6-0 on Sunday, their fifth defeat in six games.
The Twins, who haven't been out of the top spot in the Central since they were 5-2 on April 11, hope a return home can reverse their luck.
Minnesota swept a three-game series from the Tigers at Target Field from May 3-5, and has won six of its last seven home games against AL opponents.
"We're excited to get off the road, excited to get back in the American League, excited to get back in our division," Michael Cuddyer told the Twins' official website. "I think it's going to be good for us."
The Tigers arrive in Minnesota after pounding out 17 hits in Sunday's 10-4 win over Atlanta, their 10th victory in 15 games.
Brennan Boesch led the way, homering and driving in three runs. The rookie left fielder is batting .365 with eight homers and 21 RBIs in his last 22 games.
Although the Tigers seem to be heading into this series with some momentum, they're also struggling on the road, winning just four of their last 14 away from Detroit, including two of six on the trip that ended Sunday.
"To be honest with you, we haven't played well on the road all year," said Jeremy Bonderman, Monday's scheduled starter. "We have to get some wins on the road or we're not going to make the playoffs anyway. When you play well at home and go on the road and get your tails beaten, you're never going to make up ground."
Bonderman (3-5, 4.20 ERA) is facing the Twins for the first time since an 8-3 loss on Oct. 1, when he hit Delmon Young on the right knee on the first pitch of the ninth inning in a game with significant playoff implications. The right-hander, pitching in a relief role, was immediately ejected and suspended for three games the following day. The Tigers, who could have clinched the division with a win in that game, eventually lost the Central five days later in a one-game playoff.
Bonderman, 3-6 with a 5.40 ERA in 14 career starts against Minnesota, gave up four runs and seven hits in six innings of a 5-0 loss to the Mets on Wednesday.
The Twins counter with Francisco Liriano (6-5, 3.11), who gave up three runs and seven hits with seven strikeouts in five innings of Wednesday's 5-3 loss to the Brewers.
The left-hander has enjoyed facing the Tigers, going 3-0 with a 2.15 ERA in his last four starts against them. Liriano's best outing of the season came in Detroit on April 27, when he allowed four hits while striking out 10 in eight innings of a 2-0 win.