After avoiding a four-game home sweep against their closest pursuers in the AL Central, the Detroit Tigers are hoping to rediscover a groove where they’ve seemed to feel most comfortable.
The Tigers will try to improve their MLB-best road record Monday night when they open a three-game interleague series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, who seek their first four-game win streak of the season.
Following three straight losses to open its home set with second-place Cleveland, Detroit (54-41) kept its division lead from being cut down to 3 1-2 games by salvaging a 5-1 win in Sunday’s finale.
Austin Jackson and Nick Castellanos had two hits apiece, while Torii Hunter delivered a two-run homer as the Tigers snapped a four-game skid. Jackson has been on a tear, batting .444 over his last nine games.
”It’s huge to come and get the win to end that little streak,” winning pitcher Drew Smyly said. ”But that’s baseball, you’re going to go on a lot of hot streaks, you’re going to go on some cold streaks and you just try to weather the storm.”
The Tigers haven’t had many cold streaks on the road, where they’re a baseball-best 28-16. They’ve also averaged 5.9 runs and hit .302 with 17 home runs while winning 11 of 14 there.
J.D. Martinez is batting .404 with four home runs during that road stretch, while Ian Kinsler is hitting .386 with three homers and Alex Avila is hitting .342 with two.
"I guess we could wear our grey uniforms at home if (MLB) would let us," manager Brad Ausmus told MLB’s official website.
Miguel Cabrera hasn’t been much of a contributor on the road lately, going 2 for 26 over his last seven contests. The All-Star first baseman, however, has batted .393 with five homers and 15 RBIs in 16 career games in Arizona.
He could be moving across the diamond in this set since Detroit will lose its designated hitter. Regular DH Victor Martinez, who shares a primary position with Cabrera, will have to play somewhere in the field.
Justin Verlander (8-8, 4.88 ERA) has been dominant in interleague play in recent seasons, going 12-0 with a 2.12 ERA in 14 starts since his last regular-season loss to an NL opponent in June 2010.
The right-hander, though, has allowed nine runs over 12 1-3 innings in his last two outings and is 0-2 with a 5.76 ERA in four starts since his last road win May 30 at Seattle.
In his only career meeting with the Diamondbacks (43-56), Verlander allowed four hits with a career high-tying 14 strikeouts over eight innings in a 6-0 home win in June 2011.
This time, he’ll face an Arizona team that has won seven of 10 after completing a three-game home sweep Sunday with a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs.
Aaron Hill, who went 2 for 4 with a double, is 4 for 13 with two doubles off Verlander dating to his time with Toronto. David Peralta had his third straight two-hit game Sunday, leaving him with a .412 average in his last 14.
Vidal Nuno (2-6, 5.10) will make his third start for Arizona since being acquired him from the New York Yankees.
After shutting out Miami over seven innings in his first outing, the left-hander struggled in San Francisco on July 13 when he gave up four runs over five innings in an 8-4 loss.
The Diamondbacks have won eight of 12 home meetings, taking two of three in Detroit’s last visit in 2008.