Tigers look to get back to break-even mark against Mariners Monday

Alfredo Simon went 7-3 with a 2.58 ERA through his first 12 starts, but he has an 11.12 ERA over his last five.

Adam Hunger

It’s been quite some time since the four-time defending AL Central champion Detroit Tigers sat below .500 following the All-Star break.

It also seems like forever ago that Alfredo Simon was pitching well.

The Tigers hope Simon can snap out of a terrible stretch and help them get back to the break-even mark in the opener of a four-game series with the visiting Seattle Mariners on Monday night.

Detroit (45-46) surged to an 11-2 start, but hasn’t won more than three in a row since while falling 10 1/2 games behind first-place Kansas City. It has dropped five of six after Sunday’s 9-3 loss to Baltimore, falling below .500 for the first time since it was 1-2 on April 4, 2013.

The Tigers last were under .500 in the second half when they were 80-81 near the end of 2010. They haven’t finished a season below .500 since going 74-88 in 2008.

Simon (8-6, 4.53 ERA) has dropped off much like the Tigers. He went 7-3 with a 2.58 ERA through his first 12 starts, but he has an 11.12 ERA over his last five.

The right-hander, an All-Star with Cincinnati last year in his first full season as a starter, has allowed at least five runs in each of these recent outings as opponents have hit .416. He gave up seven runs – five earned – in 2 1-3 innings of a 9-5 loss to Minnesota in his last start July 11.

"I don’t want to put a lot of things in my mind," Simon said. "I just try to work hard and in the second half try to do it better, like try to make the pitch down. When you try to make the pitch and leave it up, you’re going to get hit. I have to do it better than that and just try to throw the ball down."

Simon made his only career start against the Mariners on July 6, allowing five runs and eight hits – including a three-run homer to Logan Morrison – while walking three in 5 2-3 innings of a 12-5 win.

Morrison, though, has hit just .133 with six extra-base hits over his last 27 games, and he got the day off Sunday as the Mariners (42-50) lost 2-1 to the New York Yankees.

"We need him to get on one of those (hot) streaks again," manager Lloyd McClendon told MLB’s official website. "We need him if we’re going to be successful. He’s got to get it going."

Former Tiger Austin Jackson drove in the only run Sunday with a fifth-inning single. Seattle has scored 10 times and has no more than seven hits in its last five on the road.

The Mariners look to bounce back behind J.A. Happ, who like Simon has struggled since a good start.

Happ (4-5, 4.14) had a 3.31 ERA after a scoreless outing against Tampa Bay on June 5, but he’s gone 1-4 with a 5.93 ERA in six outings since. He hasn’t pitched since July 8, when he gave up four runs and seven hits while walking three in four innings of Seattle’s 5-4 loss to the Tigers.

The Mariners optioned Happ to the minors before the All-Star break, with Happ agreeing to the assignment so Seattle could have an extra position player.

Jesus Montero went 3 for 10 in five games and was sent back to Triple-A Tacoma following Sunday’s contest to make room for Happ.