Winning away from Comerica Park helped the Detroit Tigers to the World Series in 2006, and they’re off to a strong start on the road so far this season.
In the midst of a 10-game road trip, the Tigers look to continue their sound play away from Detroit on Thursday when they open a four-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
Detroit (5-3) defeated Baltimore 4-1 in 12 innings on Wednesday behind Craig Monroe’s grand slam to take two of three from the Orioles. The Tigers also won two of three at Kansas City despite losing the opener in both series.
Last season, Detroit was a major league-best 49-32 on the road, and won two of three games at Rogers Centre.
Catcher Ivan Rodriguez was 4-for-13 with a home run, double and five RBIs in three games in Toronto last season. He has hit safely in 18 of 22 games in Rogers Centre since the start of the 1998 season, batting .376 (35-for-93) with five homers, 12 doubles and 20 RBIs in those contests.
Gary Sheffield has gone hitless in 16 at-bats over his last four games, and is just 3-for-29 (.103) this season, but he has also swung the bat well in Toronto. Sheffield is batting .348 (17-for-66) with five homers, five doubles and 13 RBIs in 17 games at Rogers Centre since the start of the 2004 season, and is 6-for-15 with a home run and three RBIs lifetime against Thursday’s starter Tomo Ohka (0-0, 10.38 ERA).
Ohka allowed a first-pitch, leadoff homer in his last outing, and did not receive a decision after being reached for five runs, six hits and three walks in 4 1-3 innings of an 8-5 Blue Jays win over Tampa Bay on Saturday.
The right-hander hasn’t faced the Tigers since 1999, when he pitched for Boston, which roughed him up for seven runs and nine hits in 4 2-3 innings in his only start against them.
Detroit counters with Mike Maroth (1-0, 7.20), who is anxious to make his second start of the season. Maroth gave up four runs and six hits in five innings of a 6-5 win over Kansas City on Saturday in his first start since May 25 after having arthroscopic elbow surgery last June.
“I’m excited not just for this start, but getting the season going, being healthy,” said Maroth, who went 5-2 with a 3.56 ERA in nine starts last season before his injury. “It’s a completely different feeling than I had a year ago. I felt comfortable.”
Maroth did make four relief appearances in September, including one against Toronto, but he hasn’t started against the Blue Jays since August 2005. The left-hander is 3-3 with 6.92 ERA in seven career starts against them, and 1-2 with a 7.71 ERA in four starts at Rogers Centre.
The Blue Jays (5-3) beat Kansas City 7-4 on Wednesday for their fourth win in five games.
“We’re built to score runs,” manager John Gibbons said. “If our pitcher keeps us in the game, we’ll get a lot of wins.”
Troy Glaus, who left Saturday’s game with a sore left heel and also sat out Sunday, homered and reached base four times against the Royals.
Second baseman Aaron Hill went 3-for-4 with a double and three RBIs on Wednesday, and is 8-for-15 with four doubles and six RBIs in his last four games. He had a two-run homer in Toronto’s 10-9 loss to Detroit on April 4.
The Tigers opened the season with a three-game series against the Blue Jays at Comerica Park. Detroit and Toronto each won one game, while the third contest was postponed due to inclement weather. That game will be made up Monday, Sept. 10, the only other time these teams meet this season after this series.