Tigers, Smyly look to take first two of four-game set with Angels Friday

Drew Smyly lost to the Angels on April 18, allowing four runs and six hits through three innings of an 11-6 defeat.

John Rieger

The Detroit Tigers are the best road team in baseball, which is one of the reasons why they also hold the largest division lead.

Normally solid at home, the Los Angeles Angels have run into some tough times in Anaheim.

Detroit sends Drew Smyly to the mound Friday night as it looks to take the first two of this four-game set with the Angels.

The Tigers (57-42) lead the AL Central by seven games over Kansas City and 7 1/2 over Cleveland, with no other first-place team in baseball having a lead of more than three games.

They improved their impressive road mark to 31-17 with Thursday’s 6-4 victory in the series opener, as Nick Castellanos’ two-run double in the sixth gave the Tigers the lead for good.

Joe Nathan struck out the side in the ninth for his 21st save in 26 chances, a day after the team traded for former Texas closer Joakim Soria. Manager Brad Ausmus is keeping Nathan as his closer despite a 5.73 ERA, with Joba Chamberlain continuing to work the eighth – as he did Thursday – while Soria likely steps into a seventh-inning role.

"There was really no concern on my part about going out there and making sure I got it done so that I could stay where I’m at," Nathan said. "It’s up to Brad to make decisions like that, so I’m just going to go out and compete when they allow me to."

Detroit snapped a six-game road losing streak to the Angels, during which it was outscored 34-9. The Tigers have won 14 of 18 on the road and four of five overall.

Austin Jackson has two hits in seven straight games and is batting .467 with eight RBIs in that stretch after driving in a run against Los Angeles.

Los Angeles (60-41), which leads the majors with 35 home victories, has dropped four of its last six – all at home – to fall three games behind Oakland in the AL West. The Angels took two of three from Seattle to open their 10-game homestand before dropping two of three to East-leading Baltimore.

"I don’t think there’s any such thing as a soft part of your schedule or tough part of your schedule," manager Mike Scioscia told MLB’s official website. "These games are all tough. The fact that we’re playing a team in first place in their division, I don’t think it changes what we need to do on the field."

Kole Calhoun went 2 for 4 with two RBIs on Thursday, but he was the only Angel with multiple hits as Max Scherzer, Nathan and Chamberlain combined for 14 strikeouts.

Los Angeles didn’t have trouble scoring the first time it faced Smyly (6-8, 3.80 ERA), who is hoping to build off a solid outing.

He lost to the Angels on April 18, allowing four runs and six hits through three innings of an 11-6 defeat. Smyly gave up at least four runs in three straight starts before the All-Star break, but he bounced back Sunday by allowing one run and four hits in seven innings of a 5-1 win over Cleveland.

"You’re going to go on a lot of hot streaks, you’re going to go on some cold streaks," Smyly said. "You just try to weather the storm."

Unlike his team, Smyly has struggled on the road, posting a 6.21 ERA in his last six starts outside Detroit.

He’ll oppose fellow left-hander Tyler Skaggs, who is looking to snap out of his funk.

Skaggs (5-5, 4.65) has been ripped for a combined 11 runs and 15 hits in 11 2-3 innings over his last two outings. He’s allowed at least four earned runs in half of his 16 starts.

Skaggs has never faced Detroit, which has won three of the four matchups this season.