Detroit swept Oakland on the way to last season’s World Series, but the Tigers haven’t been looking like defending American League champions lately.
The AL Central-leading Tigers and Athletics will square off for the first time since last year’s AL championship series when they open a three-game series Monday in Oakland.
Detroit (60-44) swept Oakland (49-56) in four games in last season’s ALCS, outscoring the A’s 22-9. The Tigers won the AL pennant for the first time since winning the World Series in 1984, but lost in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Tigers have now dropped six of their last seven, and enter this series on the heels of a three-game weekend sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Angels. Detroit was outscored 34-13 in the series, capped by Sunday’s 13-4 loss, but remained a one-half game ahead of second-place Cleveland in the AL Central.
“I think we’re a good team,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “I think you saw two good teams. One of them was playing good and one of them wasn’t. Obviously, the one that was, swept the series and the other one got swept.”
Detroit got more bad news on Sunday as Kenny Rogers, who was scheduled to start this contest, went on the disabled list with inflammation in his elbow. Rogers, who also missed the Tigers’ first 71 games after undergoing surgery to remove a blood clot from his left shoulder and repair arteries, joins Marcus Thames on the DL.
Reliever Zach Miner is on the bereavement list and isn’t expected to rejoin the team at least until next weekend.
“I think you can find out what you’re made out of,” Leyland told the Tigers’ official Web site. “I think you make it a positive and not sit around worrying about it. It’s a blow. “
The Tigers recalled right-hander Jordan Tata from Triple-A Toledo to start in Rogers’ place. Tata, who was 3-3 with a 3.29 ERA in 11 starts for Toledo, will make his season debut and his first major league start.
He made eight relief appearances for the Tigers last season, earning a 6.14 ERA without getting a decision.
“Hopefully it’s only going to be a couple starts (lost) for Kenny, but I can’t answer that,” Leyland said. “Tata’s the guy. Let’s try him. Let’s take a look at him.”
The A’s are 13 games behind the Angels for the AL West lead, and appear unlikely to return to the postseason. They dropped the final three contests of their four-game set in Seattle, including a 14-10 defeat in Sunday’s finale.
Oakland rallied from a 6-0 deficit, but allowed seven total runs in the seventh and eighth innings.
“At this point in time, a loss is a loss and it doesn’t matter how you do it,” said Nick Swisher, who drove in three runs and scored three more for the A’s.
Oakland starter Joe Blanton (8-7, 3.69) is 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA over his last four starts. He gave up five runs and 11 hits in six innings without getting a decision in a 7-6 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday, becoming the first Oakland pitcher to allow at least 10 hits in four consecutive starts since Rick Langford in 1982.
Blanton is 2-1 with an 8.27 ERA in three career starts against the Tigers, all of which came last season.