Detroit looks to make it five straight wins Friday night when it opens a three-game series against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
The power and production the Tigers (16-11) thought they were getting when they acquired Sheffield from the New York Yankees in November was absent through most of April as the 20-year veteran hit .193 with one home run and six RBIs in his first 23 games.
“I never slumped like that in my life,” said Sheffield, who got a $28 million, two-year extension through 2009.
But a near bench-clearing brawl Monday against Baltimore seemed to light a fire under Sheffield, who went 5-for-10 with two homers and four RBIs in Detroit’s three-game sweep.
Sheffield has a hit in seven of nine games - improving his batting average to .226 - since he was given a day off on April 22 in the Tigers’ 6-5, 12-inning win over the Chicago White Sox.
“That’s the part that helped me out more than anything,” Sheffield said. “We did go to extra innings and he didn’t use me. He wanted to make sure I had a clear, fresh day and I took full advantage of it.”
Sheffield went 4-for-4 with a solo homer, and Craig Monroe hit a tiebreaking homer in the sixth to lead the Tigers to a 3-2 win Wednesday over the Orioles.
Three of the Tigers’ wins during their season-high four-game streak have been by one run. Detroit leads the league with nine one-run victories.
Although Jim Leyland’s team has won four of six meetings this season and 18 of the last 24 against the Royals, he feels Kansas City (10-19) is headed in the right direction.
“They’re making moves. They’re doing things to make themselves better,” he told the Tigers’ official Web site. “Are they going to win the Central division this year in the American League? I doubt that. But if you think that’s a day at the beach going over there and seeing (Mark) Teahen, (David) DeJesus and all those guys, it’s not.”
Detroit’s Ivan Rodriguez won’t mind facing the Royals (10-19) again. He is 8-for-23 (.348) with two doubles, three homers and 10 RBIs in six games against them this year.
Justin Verlander (1-1, 2.79 ERA) will look to continue his dominance over the Royals as he faces them for the third time in 2007. The right-hander earned his only win of the season against them on April 16, allowing three runs and five hits in six innings. He is 4-0 with a 1.36 ERA in five career starts against Kansas City.
Verlander had his worst start of the season Saturday against Minnesota, as he was reached for five runs and eight hits in three innings of an 11-3 loss.
Kansas City salvaged a split of its four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels with a 5-2 victory Thursday behind an outstanding outing from Gil Meche. He allowed two hits in seven innings and Ross Gload had a career-high four hits, helping the Royals win back-to-back games for only the second time.
Brian Bannister (0-1, 4.91) attempts to cool off the Tigers in his third start of the season. The left-hander lasted 6 2-3 innings Sunday in a 5-1 loss at Seattle, yielding three runs and four hits.
This will be Bannister’s first appearance against Detroit.