Tigers-Twins Preview

The Associated Press

It might still be relatively early in the season, but the Detroit Tigers are clearly frustrated with their play.

A trip to Target Field might help get them going in a positive direction.

After being swept by the AL Central leaders, the Tigers hope for a turnaround Friday night as they try to continue their recent road success against the last-place Minnesota Twins.

The preseason favorite to repeat as Central champion, Detroit (20-24) won nine of its first 12 games but is 11-21 since. The third-place Tigers totaled six runs while dropping all three games at Cleveland this week to fall six games behind the division-leading Indians.

"I think there's a little tension,'' said Detroit ace Justin Verlander, who went eight innings but took the loss in Thursday's 2-1 defeat. "I think we're all feeling that way. Emotions run high.

"You can only say it's early for so long. We've got to get it turned around."

They could start by producing more consistently at the plate.

Detroit went 3 for 28 with runners in scoring position in the Cleveland series, with sluggers Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Delmon Young a combined 0 for 12. Fielder went 1 for 12 overall.

"We're not scoring,'' manager Jim Leyland said. "We're not swinging. That pretty much sums it up. I don't know what else to tell you.

"We're a much better team than this. We just (need to) go out and play like it."

Having leadoff hitter Austin Jackson (batting .331) on the disabled list with an abdominal strain does not help. The Tigers, though, could get a boost with versatile Ryan Rayburn set to return from the bereavement list. He's 8 for 17 (.471) in his last five games at Minnesota.

The Tigers scored 10 runs but were swept by Minnesota in a two-game home set last week. Detroit, however, has batted .312 and outscored the Twins 67-44 while winning eight of its last 10 games at Target Field.

Cabrera is batting .406 in 18 career games at Target Field.

Tigers rookie Drew Smyly (1-1, 2.89 ERA), who has never faced the Twins (15-29), takes the mound Friday looking to improve on his last two starts. The left-hander yielded four runs on two homers in each of those two outings, the latest a 4 2-3-inning effort in Saturday's 4-3 loss to Pittsburgh.

"I've had two mediocre-at-best outings in a row, but still, I don't feel like I'm getting hit around,'' Smyly said.

He faces a Minnesota team looking to avoid a third straight loss after falling 11-8 at Chicago on Thursday. Justin Morneau hit two home runs and had three RBIs, but the Twins lost for the third time in four contests. A road trip that began with a season-high four straight wins ended with a 5-3 record.

Morneau is 7 for 17 with a home run and four RBIs in his last four games versus Detroit.

Replacing the injured Nick Blackburn (left quad strain), Minnesota's Anthony Swarzak (0-3, 4.73) makes his fourth start and first since being relegated to the bullpen after giving up six runs in 2 2-3 innings of a 7-6 loss at Yankee Stadium on April 19.

"I won't put a pitch count on it," manager Ron Gardenhire told the Twins' official website. "I think if we can get five innings out of him, we'll just go inning by inning after that and see what happens."

The right-hander is 0-1 with an 11.57 ERA in two career starts versus Detroit.