After completing a five-game suspension for his part in a benches-clearing brawl, Jeremy Bonderman will take a shot at slowing down the red-hot Oakland Athletics when the Detroit Tigers try to avoid a sweep in their three-game series at McAfee Coliseum.
Bonderman, selected by the A’s in the first round of the 2001 draft before being traded to Detroit in 2002, has emerged as the Tigers’ undisputed staff ace. He leads the team in victories (13), strikeouts (113) and innings (143 2-3), and is 4-1 with a 3.00 ERA in five starts this month.
The 22-year-old right-hander is 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA in four career starts against his original team. He is coming off last Sunday’s 5-2 victory over Minnesota, allowing two runs and seven hits over eight innings, striking out six and walking two.
“If he stays healthy, he’s going to be one of the best—ever,” said teammate Rondell White.
Bonderman began serving his suspension Monday after dropping an appeal for his part in an ugly brawl with the Kansas City Royals on July 16. Bonderman, who didn’t pitch in the game, came off the bench during the skirmish, which began when Detroit’s Carlos Guillen was hit by a pitch from Runelvys Hernandez.
Bonderman will have a tall task Sunday as the surging A’s have won 10 of 11 and a team-record 22 games in July to climb atop the AL wild-card standings.
On Saturday, Jay Payton hit a grand slam and drove in five runs as Oakland cruised to its second straight win over the Tigers, 9-5.
After hitting just 28 homers in the first two months of the season, the home runs by Payton and Scott Hatteberg on Saturday gave the A’s 60 so far in June and July. They also lead the majors with 313 runs since May 30.
Oakland is 40-14 in that span—a pace that would lead to 120 wins over a full season—and has moved within 2 1/2 games of the first-place Angels in the AL West, shaving 10 games off Los Angeles’ lead. Oakland also leads the New York Yankees by 1 1/2 games in the wild-card race.
“Pretty amazing. This is a long season though,” Oakland manager Ken Macha said. “It would be nice to be able to stay this hot, but I don’t think that kind of thing happens.”
The Tigers have lost three straight and are 1-4 on a six-game road trip.