Mariners-Tigers Preview

The Associated Press

The Detroit Tigers missed a chance to move even closer to an AL Central title with a lackluster performance against the Seattle Mariners. They're hoping to avoid a repeat against red-hot rookie James Paxton.

Paxton will seek his third win in as many major league starts Thursday - and third against a playoff contender - while trying to keep the Tigers' magic number stuck at five.

After batting .295 and scoring 29 runs during a 6-1 stretch, Detroit (88-64) was limited to four hits in an 8-0 defeat to Seattle (67-85) on Wednesday. The Tigers, though, had their magic number to clinch the division reduced after Cleveland fell 7-2 in Kansas City.

Detroit, which has been shut out three times in its last seven home games, could have a difficult time regaining its hitting stroke if Paxton (2-0, 0.75 ERA) continues his impressive start to his career. The left-hander held NL Central-leading St. Louis scoreless for six innings in a 4-1 victory Saturday.

He gave up two hits and two walks while striking out five in that game after allowing two runs and four hits over six innings in his major league debut, a 6-2 win against Tampa Bay on Sept. 7.

"He's pitching in a very mature fashion for someone who has only had a couple starts," manager Eric Wedge told the team's website. "He's pitching with a great deal of confidence and seems to be calm out there. The ball is jumping out of his hand."

In this outing, Paxton will pitch opposite Doug Fister (12-9, 3.67), who is 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two lifetime starts against his former team. Fister played his first two-plus seasons in Seattle before being traded to Detroit in July 2011.

The right-hander earned that lone win against the Mariners in his only matchup this season, a 6-2 road victory April 16 after giving up two runs and four hits over seven innings.

Fister is 1-3 with a 4.50 ERA in his last four outings but suffered a 1-0 defeat against Kansas City on Saturday. He gave up the lone run in the first of his 7 2-3 innings, and Prince Fielder was thrown at the plate to end that game.

"I really have got to come out and be a little better out of the gates," Fister told the team's website.

Fister has received a combined six runs over his last four starts, and his lone win was a 3-0 victory in Boston on Sept. 2.

Kendrys Morales is 3 for 12 lifetime versus Fister but the three hits are two doubles and a home run. Raul Ibanez has a triple and a double in his six at-bats against the right-hander.