The Oakland Athletics seem to be headed for another second-half surge as they try to stay atop the AL West. The AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers are using one of their own to increase their advantage in their division.
Oakland (50-45) and Detroit (64-31) both look to continue their solid play since the All-Star break when the division leaders begin a three-game series Friday at Comerica Park.
The A’s took two of three from Baltimore earlier this week to improve to 5-2 since the break, while the Tigers took two of three from Chicago to open a 5 1/2 -game lead over the White Sox in the Central.
Oakland is 289-162 (.641) after the All-Star break since the 2000 season. Before this season’s break, the A’s dropped three of four to the Los Angeles Angels, but rebounded to take three of four from AL-East leading Boston last weekend.
“It gave us probably more of a mental boost than anything,” A’s manager Ken Macha said of the time off. “We were pretty energized and focused when we got to Boston, and we did a good job.”
After beating up on Boston and Baltimore, the A’s were off Thursday.
“It’s nice. We take three of four in Boston, and two of three (in Baltimore), and we’ve got some momentum now going into Detroit,” said Oakland pitcher Barry Zito, who allowed one run in seven innings in a 5-1 win Wednesday. “It will be a tough series out there, but a great series. They’re a great team, so we couldn’t ask for anything more than to be where we are right now.”
A’s outfielder Milton Bradley went 3-for-4 with a homer Wednesday and is 9-for-19 in five games since returning from the disabled list.
Detroit concluded its three-game series against Chicago with a 2-1 win on Thursday. Marcus Thames’ hard takeout slide broke up a potential, inning-ending double play in the seventh and Chris Shelton followed with a go-ahead double to lead the Tigers.
Detroit, which has the best record in baseball, knows it will have to stay sharp to remain ahead of the defending World Series champion White Sox.
“We gained a game, and it’s July 20. That’s all it means,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland insisted. “We’ve got Oakland coming in, and the A’s are chomping at the bit.”
Detroit outfielder Craig Monroe suffered a hamstring injury after scoring the go-ahead run Thursday, and Leyland said he could be out a couple of days. The Tigers, though, may get designated hitter Dmitri Young back for the start of this series.
Young, who has been on the disabled list since May 22 with a leg strain and personal issues, could be activated Friday. His rehabilitation assignment in the minors could extend into next week, but Leyland said “it won’t run it’s full course.”
Justin Verlander (11-4, 2.83 ERA) looks to win his fifth straight decision when he gets the start for the Tigers on Friday. The right-hander has a 1.81 ERA in his last six starts, with his last loss coming on June 7 to the White Sox.
Verlander limited Kansas City to two hits while striking out six over seven innings in a 6-0 win on Saturday. He allowed one run and three hits in seven innings at Oakland on July 4, but did not receive a decision in the Tigers’ 2-1 loss in 10 innings.
Verlander will be opposed by Dan Haren (6-8, 3.73), who has lost three straight decisions and is winless in six outings since beating Seattle on June 14.
The right-hander matched up with Verlander on July 4 and surrendered one run and four hits while striking out seven, but he also didn’t receive a decision in the contest.
Detroit and Oakland have split their six meetings this season.