The Detroit Tigers were the popular preseason pick to repeat as AL Central champions, but their inconsistency has them trailing in a relatively weak division.
That may not be the case for much longer if they continue their recently solid play.
Detroit seeks an eighth win in its last 10 games Wednesday night when it hosts the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Tigers (33-34) started the season 9-3 before going more than a month without winning consecutive games. They now seem to be playing the type of baseball that was expected of them for the first time since the early stages of the year.
Detroit has won three straight after beating St. Louis 6-3 in the series opener Tuesday. It trails division-leading Cleveland by two games.
"Hopefully some of the people that fell off the bandwagon - and rightfully so - we can earn their respect and get them back on the bandwagon," manager Jim Leyland said. "That's normally the way it works."
Four players each had two hits Tuesday, including Miguel Cabrera, who drove in a run for the fourth straight game.
The Tigers have won nine of 10 regular-season home meetings with the Cardinals since 2006 - the same year St. Louis eventually beat Detroit in five games to win the World Series - and they'll look to extend that run with Rick Porcello on the mound.
Porcello (4-4, 5.18 ERA) struggled again but ended a six-start winless drought last Wednesday, allowing four runs and nine hits in five innings of an 8-4 win over the Chicago Cubs.
The right-hander beat the Cardinals 6-3 in his only previous start against them in 2009, but he has posted a 9.21 ERA in his last six interleague outings.
St. Louis (34-34), which has dropped 11 of its last 15 on the road, will look to bounce back after losing for the third time in four overall contests.
Matt Holliday doubled Tuesday and had the only RBI for the Cardinals, who mustered five hits and had their other two runs score on an error.
"We couldn't get the big hit that we needed," manager Mike Matheny said.
St. Louis now hopes to get a solid outing from Jake Westbrook, who is coming off his first victory in seven starts.
Westbrook (5-6, 4.27) pitched five scoreless innings before giving up Adam Dunn's three-run homer in the sixth Thursday, but still beat the Chicago White Sox 5-3 to end a stretch in which he went 0-4 with a 7.55 ERA in six starts.
The right-hander went 4-2 with a 1.76 ERA in his first six outings of 2012.
"It's just a matter of finding that arm slot, finding that release point and repeating it," Westbrook told the Cardinals' official website. "The last couple ballgames, I've gotten back to that a little bit."
Westbrook has won his last two starts versus the Tigers while posting a 2.03 ERA, with both victories coming in 2010 while pitching for Cleveland. However, Cabrera (6 for 10, homer), Ramon Santiago (9 for 22), Austin Jackson (4 for 10, triple) and Prince Fielder (5 for 14, homer) all have hit Westbrook well.
- Jake Westbrook