With a once-comfortable division lead whittled down to one game, the Detroit Tigers are turning to a rookie spot starter as they attempt to keep control of the AL Central in the season’s final weekend.
Figaro (2-1, 5.74), who has made two starts this year, will take the ball for the division-leading Tigers (85-75) following their 8-0 loss to the White Sox (78-82) on Friday. Jake Peavy(notes) pitched eight innings for his third win since joining Chicago, while Edwin Jackson(notes) allowed eight runs in five innings to take the loss.
The defeat, combined with Minnesota’s win over Kansas City, dropped Detroit’s division lead to one game with two to play. The Tigers held a seven-game lead Sept. 6, but have gone 10-14 since. They could have clinched the title with a win over Minnesota on Thursday, but instead lost 8-3.
“For the last day or so, they’ve been disappointed,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “Most people when they’re disappointed, they express their disappointment in the form of boos. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
The Tigers, forced to shuffled their rotation after a rainout Monday, now must call on the 25-year-old rookie Figaro. Rick Porcello(notes), who would have taken the ball, pitched Tuesday. Detroit is opting to start Figaro instead of Porcello on shortened rest.
“We think he’s the best guy,” Leyland told the Tigers’ official Web site. “That’s what we’ve got. That’s how we’re going.”
The right-hander’s previous two starts came against Milwaukee and Houston in June. He’s made two relief appearances this month, including 2 2-3 innings of scoreless work to earn a victory over the White Sox on Sept. 26.
“I know it’s an important game,” Figaro said. “I’m not nervous. I’m a little bit excited.”
With a magic number of two, the Tigers still control their destiny and would clinch the Central with wins in their final two games. If they lose one, their best hope for a Minnesota loss may come Saturday when the Twins face Cy Young contender Zack Greinke(notes).
Chicago, meanwhile, will continue to try and play spoiler. The White Sox have won four of five. Scott Podsednik(notes) and Carlos Quentin(notes) each homered Friday, while Jermaine Dye(notes) and Mark Kotsay(notes) drove in two runs apiece. Chicago, which was coming off a 1-0 win over Cleveland on Wednesday, scored five runs in the sixth after being held to one run in each of the previous two games.
White Sox starter Freddy Garcia(notes) (2-4, 4.78), who went 1-1 with a 4.20 ERA in three starts for Detroit last year, will oppose Figaro. The veteran right-hander struggled against his former club last Saturday, giving up seven runs and 10 hits - both season highs - in 6 1-3 innings of a 12-5 loss to the Tigers in Chicago.