The Detroit Tigers feel like they’re back on track.
After ending a difficult stretch with a pair of victories over the weekend, Detroit continues its 10-game road trip Tuesday when it opens a three-game series against the last-place Texas Rangers.
Detroit (32-24) allowed Cleveland to score five runs in the ninth inning Friday and lost 12-11 to fall for the seventh time in eight games. The Tigers, though, bounced back to post a 9-5 win on Saturday and a 9-2 victory Sunday to gain a split of their four-game set with the AL Central-leading Indians.
“We got our gut tested Friday and came back and won the next two,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “I’m pretty impressed with our team. We showed we’re pretty darned good.”
The victories pulled Detroit to within 2 1/2 games of the Indians in the division.
“It was big to even the series,” said Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who hit .533 (8-for-15) in the four-game set. “We can’t afford to be far behind these guys.”
The Tigers hope Nate Robertson (4-5, 4.25 ERA) can snap out of his funk and help them close the gap on Cleveland when he starts Tuesday.
The left-hander is 1-4 with a 7.01 ERA in his last five starts and he squandered a three-run, first-inning lead on Wednesday. Robertson surrendered four runs and nine hits, including two home runs, with a wild pitch and a two-base throwing error in 5 1-3 innings of a 5-3 loss to Tampa Bay.
“I hurt myself, throwing the ball away, obviously,” Robertson said. “It’s disappointing.”
Robertson, though, has won all three of his starts at Rangers Ballpark, posting a 1.71 ERA.
The Tigers hope he can continue that success in their first 2007 meeting with Texas (20-37), which owns the worst record in the majors. These teams split 10 matchups last season with Detroit winning three of four contests at Arlington, including a victory by Robertson.
According to their official Web site, the Rangers will start John Rheinecker on Tuesday. The left-hander was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma to take the place of Vicente Padilla, who was scratched because of arm irritation.
Rheinecker, who went 4-6 with a 5.86 ERA in 21 games for Texas in 2006, began this season on the disabled list because of a back strain. He was sent to Oklahoma on a rehabilitation assignment on May 25.
“I really like John Rheinecker,” Rangers pitching coach Mark Connor said. “He’s a groundball pitcher who attacks hitters, gets left-handed hitters out, gets right-handed hitters out. What’s not to like about him? He’s a great competitor.”
Rheinecker has never faced Detroit.
The Rangers closed a seven-game road trip with only two wins after an 11-6 loss to Seattle on Sunday and now return home, where they’ve lost a season-high five straight. Texas’ last home win was a 14-4 rout of Minnesota on May 21.
The Rangers have not dropped six in a row at home since a seven-game slide from July 20-Aug. 3, 2005.
Tigers slugger Gary Sheffield, who is hitting .389 (14-for-36) with four homers and 10 RBIs in his last nine games, is waiting for a ruling on his appeal of a three-game suspension for being ejected from Thursday’s 11-5 loss at Cleveland after throwing his bat at plate umpire Greg Gibson.