The Detroit Tigers look to build on a 20-7 June record and continue their best start since the year of their last World Series title when they play the middle game of a three-game set against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday.
Detroit (55-25) equaled the 80-game start of the 1984 Tigers with a 7-6 win on Friday against the Pirates. The team’s 20th win in June—the most wins for the team in that month in 38 years—didn’t come easy, though, after letting a five-run lead dwindle to one.
The Pirates (27-54), who had snapped a 13-game losing streak on Thursday against the Chicago White Sox, rallied with three runs in the fifth inning and another run in the eighth. But after putting runners on first and second in the ninth inning, Tigers closer Todd Jones retired the side for the team’s seventh straight win as Detroit manager Jim Leyland faced his former team.
“We wanted to win for him,” said Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya. “He kind of busted on us, saying, ‘Hey we’re going back to my old place, we’d better kick their rear ends.’ It was a little tough, we were a little shaky, but we came out victorious.”
Detroit’s 20 wins in June were the most for the Tigers in the month the 1968 Tigers went 20-11. That club went on to win 103 games and the World Series.
The Tigers will kick off July by sending Jeremy Bonderman (7-4, 3.65 ERA) to the mound. Bonderman, who went 2-0 in five June outings, did not receive a decision in last Sunday’s 4-1 victory over St. Louis, allowing one run in seven innings but leaving a tie game.
“He kept us in there so we could win,” Leyland said.
Bonderman, who has never faced the Pirates, has struck out 32 batters over the last three games and ranks in the top 10 pitchers in the majors for strikeouts per nine innings with 8.66.
The Pirates will counter with Tom Gorzelanny, making his first start of the season after Oliver Perez was sent to the minors. Gorzelanny was 0-1 with a 12.00 ERA in three appearances last season, one as a starter. The 23-year-old left-hander has just six major league innings under his belt, but Pittsburgh manager Jim Tracy thinks Gorzelanny is ready.
“You can just tell there is a confidence level there that he has reached,” Tracy said. “That obviously comes from the success he has had.”
The Pirates’ second-round draft pick from 2003 was 6-5 with a 2.35 ERA in 16 starts at Triple-A and allowed just one earned run in his last 20 innings.
“During the course of the season, I’ve kind of been working on everything and it just came together,” said Gorzelanny. “Now I have a package I can throw out there and be successful with. Obviously there is more to work on. But I think I am at the point where I can show the team that I am ready to be here and ready to succeed.”
With Friday’s loss, Pittsburgh fell to 2-11 in interleague play this season.