Mariners-Tigers Preview

The Associated Press

The Detroit Tigers are approaching a third straight division championship.

They'll hope Rick Porcello will have a playoff-caliber outing Monday when they look to pick up their third straight series win as the Seattle Mariners come to town.

The Tigers (86-63) have won four of their last five, including two of three from Kansas City over the weekend.

Pitching has been at the center of their recent run, as they've yielded seven runs in those five games. All five starters have had quality outings, and the bullpen has conceded one run in its last 14 innings.

While Max Scherzer again failed to win his 20th game, he allowed one run in seven innings and Alex Avila's two homers lifted Detroit to a 3-2 win over the Royals on Sunday.

"There's nothing that I changed. There's no magic or secret to it," said Avila, who's hitting .313 since the All-Star break. "I'm just having some luck, some good swings and hitting the ball hard, really."

Detroit's run of fine pitching began with Porcello's seven-hitter in a 9-1 win against the Chicago White Sox, giving the Tigers hope he moved on from his Sept. 4 outing when he was tagged for three home runs and nine runs in five-plus innings of a 20-4 loss at Boston.

"His last outing, he didn't have much stuff," Detroit pitching coach Jeff Jones said. "It's nice to see him bounce back the way he did tonight. It definitely was a shot in the arm for him."

Porcello, who went 3-0 with a 2.96 ERA over his first four starts against Seattle (66-83), has lost the last two. He was reached for five runs and gave up two homers in 6 2-3 innings of a 5-4 loss on April 26, 2012.

Justin Smoak accounted for one of those home runs but is currently mired in an 0 for 16 slump that led to a day off Sunday.

Other Mariners have struggled against him, including Kendrys Morales (3 for 13), Franklin Gutierrez (0 for 8), Raul Ibanez (0 for 6) and Michael Saunders (0 for 6).

Joe Saunders (11-14, 5.18) has looked little like the pitcher who helped Baltimore into the postseason last year. He is 2-6 with a 7.33 ERA in his last 10 starts, with opposing batters hitting .371 against him with 10 home runs in 50 1-3 innings over that stretch.

Even facing one of the worst lineups in the league failed to help Saunders Tuesday, when Houston got to the left-hander for six runs in three innings of a 13-2 Seattle loss.

"He has struggled," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "He is a great competitor, but you haven't seen the command."

The veteran, who has not faced Detroit since 2011, is 1-2 with a 5.26 ERA in nine lifetime starts versus the Tigers.

Detroit has lost nine of its last 12 against the AL West, though it held Seattle to five runs in taking two of three at Safeco Field in April.

The Mariners have lost six of seven, including a 12-2 loss to St. Louis Sunday, and have batted .188 with 15 runs in that stretch.

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