While the Detroit Tigers can set their sights on securing home-field advantage in their AL division series, Jhonny Peralta looks to make a bid to be part of the team when it gets there.
Peralta makes his return to the newly crowned AL Central champions Friday night when they visit the Miami Marlins.
Detroit (93-66) had Thursday off after Max Scherzer picked up his major league-best 21st win and the defending league champions wrapped up another division crown with a 1-0 victory at Minnesota on Wednesday.
"For us to be able to do it three straight years now is really special and a testament to the talent in our clubhouse," said Scherzer, who allowed two hits over seven innings.
Detroit trails West champion Oakland by one game for the league's second-best record and home-field advantage in the ALDS. The Tigers also have a slim chance to catch Boston for baseball's best mark overall.
Following a 50-game suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, Peralta is starting in left field for the Tigers as they open a three-game set against the NL-worst Marlins (59-100).
The All-Star shortstop has hit .305 with 11 home runs and 54 RBIs, but might have to impress at his new position to earn a place on the postseason roster. Peralta, hitting .420 in interleague games, will be in left field because the Tigers acquired shortstop Jose Iglesias from Boston shortly before the suspension.
"(Peralta) has worked hard, eager to get back," general manager Dave Dombrowski told the team's official website. "The team has been receptive to him coming back, and we think it's best for the ball club to give him the opportunity."
While Iglesias hasn't started since he was hit on the left hand Sept. 19, he's hoping to return to the lineup Friday. Iglesias is batting .310 overall but in a 2-for-18 slump.
The Tigers, 12-5 in interleague play, have averaged 7.5 runs and hit .339 while winning eight in a row against NL opponents. That streak matches the team record set during the 2010 season.
Former Marlin Miguel Cabrera, who has never faced the team with which he broke into the majors, is batting .371 with five home runs and 17 RBIs in interleague contests. Cabrera tops baseball with a .345 average but can no longer win a second straight Triple Crown, having hit one homer in his last 23 games to fall well behind Baltimore's Chris Davis for the major league lead.
Rick Porcello was scheduled to start this game as a postseason tuneup for the Tigers, but they switched to rookie Jose Alvarez (1-4, 5.50 ERA) on Friday morning.
Alvarez has been pitching out of the Detroit bullpen over the past month, including a scoreless inning at Minnesota on Monday in his most recent appearance. The left-hander started his first five games in the majors following his call-up in early June and lost each of the last three, getting tagged for 11 runs and 18 hits in 14 1-3 innings.
The good news for Alvarez is that he's facing a Miami team which has scored 2.6 runs per game and batted .229 while dropping 14 of 20. The Marlins rank last in the majors in both offensive categories.
Tom Koehler (4-10, 4.45) takes the mound for Miami.
A week after going eight innings in a 1-0, 12-inning loss to the Mets, Koehler saw his eight-start winless streak end Sunday when he limited Washington to two runs over six frames in a 4-2 victory.
The right-hander, 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in four interleague starts, will try to cool off a Detroit team that has won 11 of 15.
"This is a good experience for us," Koehler told MLB's official website. "Obviously, we're not in (the playoffs). But to get to play against teams who are playing for something, that means something."
This is the first meeting since 2004 when the Tigers took two of three in Detroit.