Angels-Tigers Preview

The Associated Press

It's unclear if Miguel Cabrera will be back at third base for the Detroit Tigers, but the Los Angeles Angels are certain to have Dan Haren back on the mound.

They're also hoping Albert Pujols can return to the lineup.

After being skipped in the rotation, Haren will try to show some improvement and help the Angels win their fifth straight game as they face Cabrera and the Tigers on Saturday night.

Cabrera has been bothered by a sore right ankle that forced him out of Thursday's 3-2, 11-inning win over Toronto. He was healthy enough to be used as a designated hitter Friday, and went 2 for 4 with a solo homer in a 2-1 defeat to Los Angeles (66-60) in the opener of this three-game set.

The seven-time All-Star is hoping to be back at third, but manager Jim Leyland is being cautious.

"I'm concerned about it after watching (Friday)," Leyland said. "He looked good at the plate, but moving around, certainly you would have to say there's some questions."

Cabrera is among the frontrunners for the AL MVP with a .327 average, 32 homers and 106 RBIs, which rank among baseball's leaders in each category.

Simply having Cabrera healthy enough to hit may be good enough for the Tigers (67-58), who are one game back of Baltimore and Oakland for the league's second wild card. However, the Angels are lurking 1 1/2 games behind Detroit.

Los Angeles hopes Haren (8-10, 4.90 ERA) can draw them closer as he starts for the first time since struggling in a 7-0 loss to Tampa Bay on Aug. 16. He had been tagged for 12 runs in seven innings in losing back-to-back starts before being skipped, with those losses coming after going 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA in three starts following a stint on the disabled list due to lower back stiffness.

"I have to be better," Haren told the team's official website after his most recent outing. "It's kind of been a broken record for me. I've just been too inconsistent this season. I'll have a couple good starts, and then I'll disappear for a while. I have to be more consistent. I have to give the team a better chance to win."

Haren has certainly done that versus the Tigers, winning each of his last three starts - including two complete games - while posting a 1.44 ERA. That includes a six-hitter at Detroit on July 30, 2011, in a 5-1 victory.

He's held Cabrera to 3 for 13 with one homer.

The Tigers will counter with Drew Smyly (4-3, 4.42) after Doug Fister was ruled out with tightness in his right groin.

Smyly last appeared for Detroit in an impressive effort in a 4-2 win over Kansas City on July 6. He allowed two runs with 10 strikeouts in six innings. However, he strained his side in the victory and went on the disabled list.

Since then, the left-hander has gone 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in five starts for Triple-A Toledo.

"I have 15 starts up here. I know what to expect. I know how to go about it," Smyly told the team's official website. "But, I mean, I get excited and nervous for any game.

"It's just fun going out and pitching in front of 40,000 people, especially this late in the season when the team needs you. Every game counts. It's just fun. I'm glad I get to be part of it."

He may not be glad if Pujols returns for the Angels - as he's hoping to - after missing two games with an injured right calf. The star first baseman is hitting .387 with four homers and 10 RBIs in his last eight contests.

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