It took more than half the season, but both teams now appear headed toward those fates.
The Tigers look to stay hot and keep climbing in the AL Central on Friday when they seek their seventh straight win over the struggling Orioles.
Detroit started 0-7 and has battled injuries and inconsistency, but the Tigers (48-47) managed to get back to .500 at the All-Star break.
They resumed play Thursday with a 6-5 win over Baltimore, improving to 24-11 in their last 35 games and pulling within 6 1/2 games of first-place Chicago in the Central.
Detroit is also getting healthier - and perhaps more consistent offensively. Right fielder Magglio Ordonez was activated from the disabled list before the win, while oft-injured designated hitter Gary Sheffield hit a two-run home run to snap a 2-for-22 slump.
Sheffield hit .217 in the first half, but tweaked his swing after a suggestion by a former player to manager Jim Leyland in New York during the break. Sheffield was robbed of a second home run by Jay Payton on Thursday.
“This is when it all counts,” Sheffield said. “You want to make it all right in the second half, get off to a good start and go from there.”
The Tigers don’t need to make any adjustments against the Orioles (45-49). They won their final five games against Baltimore last year before opening the 2008 season series with Thursday’s win, their seventh in 10 games at Camden Yards.
Rookie Armando Galarraga (7-3, 3.27 ERA) has never faced the Orioles. Galarraga led Detroit starters in ERA in the first half, but he’s looking for his first win since June 18. The right-hander lost to Minnesota last Friday despite allowing two runs in 5 2-3 innings.
He’ll face a scuffling Baltimore club that has lost three straight and eight of nine to slip into the AL East cellar. The Orioles are four games under .500 for the first time this year.
Six of the Orioles’ last eight losses have come by one run, but the main problem over that span has been pitching, as they’ve allowed an average of 6.8 runs in their last nine games. The Tigers hit three home runs Thursday.
“They live a lot with the home run ball and we didn’t keep the ball in the ballpark,” Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. “So that was a negative for us.”
Jeremy Guthrie (5-7, 3.49) hasn’t been part of the problem. He gave up two runs - one earned - and four hits in seven innings last Thursday at Toronto, but the Orioles lost 6-5 after closer George Sherrill blew the save.
Guthrie has never started against Detroit. In three relief appearances versus the Tigers, the right-hander has allowed three runs in seven innings.
It’s unclear if Tigers All-Star third baseman Carlos Guillen will be available Friday. He missed Thursday’s game to be with his wife after the birth of the couple’s son.