The Detroit Tigers’ hopes of making a return trip to the playoffs appear all but gone.
After their postseason chances took a severe hit in their most recent series, the Tigers look to rebound Friday when they host the Kansas City Royals to open their final homestand of 2007.
Detroit (83-70) will try to avoid losing a fourth straight contest after falling 4-2 to AL Central-leading Cleveland on Wednesday. The Indians swept the three-game series, essentially ending the Tigers’ chances of winning the division.
The Tigers, who had won five in a row heading into the set, are 7 1/2 games back of the Indians and 5 1/2 behind wild card-leading New York with nine games remaining.
“We’ve just got to see what happens from here,” outfielder Marcus Thames told the Tigers’ official Web site. “Just go try to win every game. Maybe a miracle can happen. You don’t know. Just can’t give up.”
Considered a serious contender to return to the World Series this season, Detroit held a one-game lead over Cleveland at the All-Star break, but is 31-36 since and will need everything to go its way in the final 10 days of the season just to reach the playoffs.
“Until we’re mathematically eliminated, we’re not finished,” third baseman Brandon Inge said. “This game is so quirky. I’m not quitting.”
Detroit will finish against the three teams behind it in the AL Central - the Royals and Minnesota at home, before closing at Chicago. The Tigers are 25-20 against those clubs.
“Everybody’s still going to go out there and play hard,” Thames said. “You can’t get this far to just give up that easily. Nobody in here will do that. I trust all these guys. Everybody’s going to give it all they have.”
The Tigers will try to bounce back after failing to hold leads in each of the three games against Cleveland, which has a magic number of three to clinch the division.
Guillen is batting .350 (7-for-20) in his last five games, while Ordonez is hitting .339 (19-for-56) with 12 RBIs in 14 games against the Royals this season.
Rookie Jair Jurrjens (3-1, 2.84 ERA) will try to win his fourth straight decision when he takes the mound for the Tigers on Friday. He allowed a run and two hits in 5 1-3 innings of a 6-4 victory at Minnesota on Sunday.
The right-hander has a 1.96 ERA in his last four starts and is making a case to be part of Detroit’s rotation in 2008. He’ll make his first start against Kansas City (66-86), which is 6-9 against the Tigers this season but has won four of six meetings since the break.
The Royals beat the White Sox 3-0 on Thursday to split a four-game series. Tony Pena Jr. drove in two runs and Joey Gathright and John Buck each had two hits for Kansas City, which is one-half game ahead of last-place Chicago.
The Royals will also send a rookie to the mound Friday as Billy Buckner (1-1, 4.30) tries for his second straight victory. He allowed one run and five hits in six innings of a 4-3 win over the Indians on Sunday, the first of his career.
“I’m pretty relieved to have it over with,” Buckner told the Royals’ Web site. “It’s exciting.”
The right-hander is 1-1 with a 5.87 ERA in three starts and will make his first one against Detroit. He allowed one hit in 2 2-3 innings of relief in the Royals’ 6-1 loss to the Tigers on Aug. 30.