The Detroit Tigers aren’t just pulling away in the AL Central race, they’re doing so in dominant fashion while chasing down their first division title since 1987.
In search of their first eight-game winning streak in more than four years, the surging Tigers square off against the Minnesota Twins on Saturday afternoon.
Detroit (82-62) opened the weekend series by rallying for an 8-4 victory Friday. Alex Avila(notes), Ramon Santiago(notes) and former Twin Delmon Young(notes) homered as the Tigers erased a 4-0, first-inning deficit.
“There’s a point when you have so much confidence in your offense that you are never going to panic when you get behind early,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “I imagine that’s how they must be feeling right now - that they are swinging the bats so well that they are always going to have a chance to come back.”
With Chicago’s 8-4 loss to Cleveland, Detroit reduced its magic number to 10 with 20 games to play. The Tigers still have three games remaining with the White Sox and will close the regular season with three against the Indians at Comerica Park.
Detroit has scored 65 runs while batting .350 during its seven-game winning streak.
Miguel Cabrera(notes) is hitting .423 (11 for 26) and Victor Martinez(notes) .379 (11 for 29) during the streak. Young, who’s appeared in six of the seven games, is batting .417 (10 for 24). Acquired from Minnesota on Aug. 15, Young is hitting .309 with four homers and 18 RBIs in 23 games for his new team, helping Detroit go 17-6.
The pitching staff has also sparkled over the last seven games with a 2.71 ERA, yielding two earned runs or fewer four times.
The right-hander is 1-0 with a 5.27 ERA in his previous two matchups with Minnesota. He gave up seven runs over 6 2-3 innings May 31, but didn’t get a decision in the Tigers’ 8-7 home win.
Scherzer pitched much better in Sunday’s 18-2 rout of the White Sox, yielding five hits and striking out six in seven scoreless innings.
Should Tigers closer Jose Valverde(notes) get his 43rd save Saturday, he would break Todd Jones’ franchise record set in 2000. Valverde, who has yet to blow a save in 2011, has five saves against the Twins (59-85) this season.
Minnesota has dropped 12 of 16 in the season series with a 6.28 staff ERA, the highest for the Twins’ staff against any division foe.
Swarzak has taken the loss in each of his last three games, including two starts, allowing 13 earned runs over 15 2-3 innings.
Making his only career start against the Tigers on Aug. 7, 2009, the right-hander was ripped for seven runs and eight hits in one-plus inning of a 10-8 defeat in Detroit.
Swarzak has no record in three relief outings versus the Tigers this season, allowing two runs and six hits in six innings.