Despite struggling lately, the NL Central-leading Brewers look to show they’re a legitimate contender when they open a three-game set against the surging Tigers on Tuesday night at Comerica Park.
Milwaukee (34-29), which has gone 13 years without a winning season, still leads the Central despite going 9-18 since May 12, when it was a season-high 14 games over .500.
The Brewers would like to follow the path that took Detroit to the World Series last year after it lost 99 games in 2005. The Tigers were 41-23 and held a 1 1/2-game lead over Chicago in the AL Central at this time last season.
Milwaukee, though, will be challenged. Detroit (36-26), which has won six of eight, has scored a major league-best 374 runs and is 5-1 in interleague play.
Detroit is 8-7 in interleague games against Milwaukee and won two of three last June 19-21. The Brewers are visiting Detroit for the first time since 2001.
Geoff Jenkins hit a three-run homer in the 12th inning in Milwaukee’s 9-6 victory at Texas on Sunday to snap a three-game losing streak and improve the club to 2-4 in interleague games.
“Through this little stretch right here, they’ve all kept their heads up,” Milwaukee manager Ned Yost said. “They keep after it every day. Nobody’s panicked.”
Prince Fielder hit his NL-leading 23rd homer Sunday and will play his first game in Detroit—the city where his father, Cecil, hit 245 home runs for the Tigers from 1990-96.
“It’s not the same team I grew up with,” Prince Fielder told the Brewers’ official Web site. “But as far as seeing the fans and the city again, that’s going to be cool.”
Fielder went 3-for-9 with a homer last season against the Tigers.
Milwaukee’s Jeff Suppan (7-6, 3.92 ERA) will face Detroit for the first time since he started Game 4 of the World Series while with St. Louis. Suppan allowed three runs in six innings, but didn’t factor in the Cardinals’ 5-4 home win on Oct. 26.
The right-hander, who is 8-6 with a 4.63 ERA in 20 regular season starts against Detroit, allowed four earned runs and seven hits in five innings of a 6-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday.
Detroit posted a season high in runs with a 15-7 rout of the New York Mets on Sunday. Despite scoring 10 or more runs for the third time in five games, manager Jim Leyland wasn’t satisfied.
“We have to win games 5-3 and 3-2 like we did last year,” Leyland said. “If we don’t, we won’t be anywhere to be found later on.”
Gary Sheffield went 4-for-5 and hit his 17th homer. Sheffield, who started his career with Milwaukee in 1988, has raised his average 90 points since May 1 to .281.
It’s uncertain if Carlos Guillen will play Tuesday after suffering a right hamstring spasm on Sunday. The Tigers do expect leading hitter Magglio Ordonez back after he missed Sunday’s game with stiffness in his left knee.
Ordonez is batting .367 overall and is .395 (17-for-43) with two homers and six RBIs against Suppan in the regular season.
Justin Verlander (6-2, 3.12), who is 5-1 in his last seven starts, will take the ball for the Tigers on Tuesday. The right-hander, who has never faced Milwaukee, allowed five hits in seven scoreless innings of a 10-0 win at Texas on Wednesday.
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