The Detroit Tigers haven’t played much like a first-place team lately. Fortunately for them, neither has their closest pursuer.
The struggling Tigers hope to avoid losing their fourth straight series Wednesday afternoon when they conclude an 11-game road trip against the Oakland Athletics.
Justin Verlander was outpitched by fellow All-Star Dan Haren, and the Tigers were held scoreless over the final seven innings Tuesday night in a 7-3 loss. It was the fifth in six games for Detroit (61-45), which has dropped series to Kansas City, the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Angels since winning three straight at Minnesota from July 17-19.
“I just didn’t like the body language,” manager Jim Leyland said. “It was like we were rushing to get the game over with.”
The Tigers maintained a one-game lead in the AL Central over Cleveland, which has lost three straight and six of eight.
Despite a shortage of reliable arms in the bullpen, Detroit didn’t make any moves before Tuesday’s trading deadline. Instead, the Tigers are counting on injured relievers Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya to contribute when they return.
Rodney, who has one more scheduled rehab outing, could be activated from the disabled list when the Tigers begin an 11-game homestand Friday. Zumaya has been strong in side sessions and could be cleared for a rehab stint soon.
“The one difference we have compared to everybody else, is that we have a chance to get quite a few reinforcements, and relatively soon,” general manager Dave Dombrowski said.
All-Star catcher Ivan Rodriguez is scheduled to return to the Tigers’ lineup Wednesday after he dropped his appeal and served a one-game suspension for making contact with an umpire July 12.
Kurt Suzuki and Jack Cust hit two-run singles in the sixth inning Tuesday as Oakland snapped a four-game losing streak. The Athletics went 9-18 in July, marking only the second time since 1998 that they have lost more than 17 games in a month. They went 7-20 in May 2005.
“We are a good team,” Haren said. “We’re better than our record shows, that’s for sure. It’s hard right now. We’ve put ourselves in a hole that I don’t know if we can get out of.”
Oakland third baseman Eric Chavez didn’t start for the 12th time in 15 games because of a stiff back.
Detroit’s Nate Robertson (6-8, 5.08 ERA) looks to rebound from one of his worst starts of the season. The left-hander was reached for a season-high eight runs and 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings Friday in an 11-6 road loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
Since tossing seven innings in a 1-0 win at Minnesota on July 17, Robertson is 0-2 with a 9.31 ERA in his last two starts.
The Tigers are 6-12 this season with Robertson on the mound, losing seven of his last nine outings.
Robertson is 2-2 with a 5.46 ERA in four career starts against the A’s, including 0-2 with an 8.31 ERA in two road outings.
Dallas Braden (1-6, 5.53) hopes to end a six-start losing streak. The rookie left-hander is winless in nine appearances since earning a victory in his major league debut at Baltimore on April 24. He was reached for seven runs - four earned - and seven hits over four innings Friday in a 7-1 loss at Seattle.
Although Braden hasn’t pitched particularly well, he also hasn’t received much offensive support. The A’s are averaging 2.7 runs in his seven starts.
This will be his first appearance against the Tigers.