Even during their worst slump of the season, the Detroit Tigers are proving they have staying power.
The Tigers (38-22) try to record consecutive wins for the first time in nearly two weeks when they open a three-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays (33-26) at Rogers Centre on Friday night.
Detroit avoided a sweep by the AL Central rival Chicago White Sox on Thursday with a 6-2 victory to maintain its major league-best record. Detroit improved to 21-9 on the road, also tops in the majors.
“You can’t sit back and hope that they fail,” Tigers center fielder Curtis Granderson said of the White Sox. “You have to go and continue to put pressure on them, hopefully put all the control of the outcome in your hands. If you end up not winning it, at least you can say you put the pressure on.”
Feeling some pressure themselves, the Tigers increased their division lead to 1 1/2 games over the White Sox with just their third win in the last 11 games. Detroit has dropped three straight series to the New York Yankees, Boston and Chicago and been outscored 59-37 in its last 11 contests. The Tigers haven’t had back-to-back victories since an eight-game winning streak from May 20-27.
Placido Polanco had a two-run homer and a double Thursday, and he’s batting .355 (11-for-31) in his career against Toronto. Marcus Thames added a two-run shot for the Tigers, who recorded 10 hits Thursday and improved to 20-5 when they reach that mark.
Detroit will try for a repeat performance at the plate when it faces Toronto left-hander Gustavo Chacin (6-2, 5.59 ERA). The Tigers are 11-3 when facing a left-handed starter, second-best in the majors behind the Yankees (14-3).
Chacin will be looking to avoid consecutive losses for the first time this season. He struggled in his last outing Sunday, allowing six runs and five hits, including three homers, in 4 1-3 innings of a 10-5 loss to Tampa Bay.
Chacin threw a season-low 69 pitches and failed to get beyond the fifth inning for the third consecutive start.
“I started missing my spots,” said Chacin, who has given up 13 home runs through 48 1-3 innings. “That’s what happened. I started leaving the ball over the middle, up in the zone. They didn’t miss my mistakes.”
Chacin is unbeaten at home, however, going 5-0 in his six starts at Rogers Centre. He has not gotten a decision in two career starts against the Tigers, posting a 3.29 ERA in 13 2-3 innings.
The Blue Jays have also been at their best at home, going 19-11 and winning seven straight series there. Toronto is opening a seven-game homestand after concluding a 4-3 road trip with a 7-5 loss to Baltimore on Thursday.
Jeremy Bonderman (6-4, 4.38) will look put an end to those streaks and remain undefeated on the road when he takes the mound for Detroit. The right-hander is 4-0 with a 3.05 ERA in six starts away from home.
He is coming off a 6-2 win over Boston on Saturday, when he rebounded from a shaky start and gave up four hits with six strikeouts in 7 2-3 innings.
“A lot of it is you have to go throw strikes,” Bonderman said. “I could throw all my pitches for strikes (Saturday). I wasn’t just straight-fastball first pitch. You have to mix it up and keep these guys off-balance.”
In four career appearances (three starts) against the Jays, Bonderman is 1-1 with 4.29 ERA and has held them to a .189 batting average.
Tigers outfielder Craig Monroe is hoping to return as early as this three-game series after leaving Wednesday’s game with a sprained right ankle.
Detroit won the season series 4-3 against the Jays in 2005, but dropped three of four in Toronto.