The Detroit Tigers have stayed atop the AL Central thanks in large part to their play at home this season.
The Tigers, however, need a victory in Monday’s finale against the Tampa Bay Rays to clinch their sixth straight series win at Comerica Park.
Detroit (69-60) has held sole possession of first place in its division since May 16 and lead Minnesota by 4 1/2 games coming in. The Tigers’ 42 home wins this season are tied for third in the AL with Tampa Bay (70-59) and trail only New York and Boston’s 45.
The Tigers’ 42-21 home mark is their best since 1971 and has them closing in on a second postseason trip in four years. They’ve especially shined lately by going 27-10 there since a season-high six-game slide from May 23-June 5.
“This is a different ballclub than 2006 (when they went to the World Series), but there’s a lot of good karma and good guys just like we had,” said Justin Verlander(notes), who notched his 15th win with a 4-3 victory Sunday. “It’s a very similar-type feeling and obviously, that was a fun year.”
Detroit’s pitchers, though, have played the more pivotal role in its run at home. The Tigers have an AL-best 3.57 ERA at Comerica Park and opposing teams are batting a league-low .238 against them this season.
Detroit has also allowed opponents to hit .175 with runners in scoring position in the past 16 overall games.
Jarrod Washburn(notes) (9-7, 3.23 ERA) will take the mound for the Tigers in the finale, and the left-hander has a good chance to continue those trends as he faces the team he’s beaten the most in his career.
Washburn is 12-3 with a 2.59 ERA in 17 career starts against the Rays. He added to that win total on April 21 as he allowed two runs over seven innings in a 4-2 home victory for Seattle.
Washburn, however, hasn’t experienced much success being traded on July 31, going 1-1 with a 4.93 ERA in six starts. He earned his first victory with the Tigers on Tuesday in Los Angeles as he gave up three runs over six innings in a 5-3 win.
The Rays will counter with James Shields(notes) (8-10, 3.81) as they try to keep from falling further back in the wild card race. Tampa Bay is six games behind division rival Boston in those standings and fell to 3-3 on its seven-game road trip.
Shields is trying to win three straight road starts for the first time in his career. He is 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA in two outings in Detroit, but hasn’t faced the Tigers this season.
The right-hander is 2-0 with a 2.31 ERA in four overall matchups versus Detroit.
The Tigers are 13-12 against the Rays since 2006, winning 10 of 15 at home.