Zach Miner hasn’t made a start in more than a month, but Detroit manager Jim Leyland has confidence the struggling rookie can help the Tigers end a three-game losing streak and move them closer to a division title.
The Tigers (95-65) suffered a stunning 9-7, 11-inning loss to Kansas City (60-100) on Friday. Detroit had an early 5-0 lead, but allowed the Royals to come back with two runs in the fifth and one each in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings to send the game into extra frames.
Kansas City hit three homers in the 11th and a Detroit rally attempt in the bottom of the inning fell short as the Tigers dropped their thirs straight game.
However, the Tigers did not lose any ground against the Twins, who lost to the Chicago White Sox on Friday.
Both teams have already clinched playoff berths. If they remain tied at the end of the weekend, Detroit would win the division because of a better head-to-head record.
“When they lose, you want to take advantage of it,” said Tigers closer Todd Jones, who blew his fifth save in 42 opportunities. “But if you stumble, you hope they do, too.”
Miner (7-5, 4.37 ERA) fills the rotation spot of rookie phenom Justin Verlander, whom Leyland is resting for the playoffs.
Miner won six of his first seven decisions this season, but he struggled after the All-Star break, going 1-4 with a 7.23 ERA in eight starts.
After being sent to the bullpen in late August, Miner righted himself, posting a 2.03 ERA in 11 appearances.
“Zach’s a smart guy and he’s done a heck of a job,” Leyland said. “He’s handled (the move to the bullpen) very well. … If people want to stay in the big leagues, they make good decisions. Zach made a good decision.”
Leyland said he doesn’t have a pitch count for the 24-year-old right hander, who pitched 2 1-3 scoreless innings against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday.
The rookie is 0-1 with a 7.94 ERA in three appearances, including one start, against the Royals. In the lone start, Miner allowed five runs and eight hits in 4 1-3 innings of a 9-6 defeat.
After struggling as a closer, Ambiorix Burgos (4-5, 5.60) will make his first career start on Saturday. The 22-year-old right-hander leads the majors with 12 blown saves. According to interim manager Billy Doran, Burgos is expected to only pitch three innings Saturday.
Burgos is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA and one blown save in 10 career relief appearances against the Tigers.
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