The surprising Detroit Tigers look to continue their power surge and start the season with five consecutive wins for the first time in 21 years.
The Tigers bring their league-leading 16 home runs to hitter-friendly Ameriquest Field as they continue a four-game series against the Texas Rangers on Saturday.
The Tigers (4-0) last opened the season with five consecutive wins in 1985, when they won six in a row. They are hoping the hottest player in baseball, first baseman Chris Shelton, can help them get there by continuing his torrid hitting pace.
Shelton hit his league-leading fifth home run in Detroit’s 5-2 win over Texas on Friday. He became the first player since Hall of Famer Lou Brock in 1967 to hit five home runs in the first four games of a season.
“It’s a little overwhelming,” said Shelton, who reached five homers in 26 games last year and finished with a career-best 18.
“It’s strange for me, power-wise,” he said. “It’s not something I’m accustomed to. I’m not going up trying to hit home runs. I’m just trying to get good pitches to hit and they’re going out of the park. It’s surprising.”
The 25-year-old Shelton has hit three home runs in two games at Ameriquest Field, where an American League-leading 250 homers have been hit since the start of last season.
Detroit also has received solid pitching performances in the first four games, allowing 12 runs and limiting hitters to a .237 batting average.
“You’re happy to be 4-0, but I won’t get too excited about it,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “In our first four games, our starting pitchers got wins. That’s very unlikely, but in this case, we did. We’re pitching and playing defense very well.”
The Tigers are the only team in the major leagues without an error this season.
Detroit sends 23-year-old rookie Justin Verlander to the mound on Saturday. The right-hander got the nod as the team’s fifth starter after a solid showing in spring training. The second overall pick the 2004 draft, Verlander went 0-2 with a 7.15 ERA in two starts last season.
The Rangers (1-4) will counter with their ace, Kevin Milwood, who is looking to bounce back from a rough opening day loss to the Boston Red Sox on Monday.
The right-hander allowed five runs and seven hits in five innings in a 7-3 loss to the Red Sox.
“You’re always ready to get back out there when things don’t go as well as you’d want,” Millwood said. “But I don’t beat myself up for the next four days if I lose. I just try to figure out what needs to be fixed and take care of it.”
Milwood is hoping to stifle the Tigers’ bats, as he has been successful against the current roster, holding them to a .211 batting average. All-Star catcher Ivan Rodriguez has a career average of just .174 against Millwood with five strikeouts in 23 at-bats.
Shortstop Michael Young is hitting .500 in the last five meetings with the Tigers after going 2-for-4 with a solo shot on Friday.