A nine-game homestand for the Detroit Tigers has shifted the tight AL Central race in their favor, but the margin for error is minimal.
Hoping to hold onto first place, the Tigers look for a 17th victory in 19 games at Comerica Park as they continue a three-game series against the sputtering Minnesota Twins on Saturday.
Detroit (47-37) entered this month in second place in the division, 1 1/2 games back of Minnesota (45-41). The club has used a 6-1 start to a nine-game homestand to move atop the Central, one-half game ahead of second-place Chicago and three games in front of the Twins.
Owners of the best home record in the AL at 31-12, the Tigers have batted .326 and averaged 6.2 runs while winning 16 of 18 at Comerica Park.
Detroit showed no signs of slowing Friday, opening this series with a 7-3 win over Minnesota. Though the victory came against the team that won the Central title last year by beating the Tigers in a one-game playoff, manager Jim Leyland feels each game should be treated equally.
“Let’s not get into the big game (stuff) now,” Leyland said. “We all know that from last year.
“We had a big game April 7th last year, or April 8th or April 9th. Had we won one of those games - whichever date you want to pick - we would’ve been in the playoffs.”
While the Tigers are rolling at home, the Twins have dropped eight of 10 on the road and could be without Justin Morneau(notes) again. Morneau might miss a third game after suffering a mild concussion when he was accidentally kneed in the head during Wednesday’s 6-5 loss at Toronto.
The first baseman is among league leaders with a .345 average, 18 homers and 56 RBIs, and he’s hitting .360 in seven games against the Tigers.
The right-hander gave up seven runs and nine hits, including two homers, and had his outing cut short when he was ejected after the fifth for arguing with the home plate umpire in an 8-1 loss to Seattle on Sunday.
Bonderman is 2-1 with a 3.98 ERA in eight games - six starts - against the Twins at Comerica Park. He beat them at Minnesota on June 28, yielding four runs in 5 1-3 innings of a 7-5 win.
The right-hander was hit hard again Sunday, surrendering seven runs and nine hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 7-4 loss to Tampa Bay. He’s 1-5 with a 9.28 ERA in his last seven trips to the mound, including 0-4 with a 17.74 ERA in four road outings.
Blackburn hasn’t fared well in Detroit either, going 0-3 with a 6.12 ERA in five games - four starts. However, he’s 2-0 with a 3.94 ERA in two meetings - both at home - against the Tigers this year.
Miguel Cabrera(notes) has thrived against Blackburn, going 10 for 22 with one homer. The All-Star first baseman leads the majors with a .346 average and 74 RBIs, while his 21 homers are two behind Toronto’s Jose Bautista(notes) for the most in baseball.
Cabrera is on a career high-tying 17-game hitting streak, during which he’s batted .406 with two homers and 15 RBIs.