Mariners-Tigers Preview

The Associated Press

The Detroit Tigers are closing in on their third consecutive AL Central title.

Giving the ball to Anibal Sanchez could help them inch nearer.

Sanchez tries to extend his career-best winning streak to eight Tuesday night as the Tigers continue a four-game home set against the Seattle Mariners.

Torii Hunter and Omar Infante each had two hits and an RBI and Rick Porcello threw six strong innings in Monday's 4-2 victory. Detroit (87-63) has won five of six by a 23-9 margin to move six games ahead of second-place Cleveland with 12 to play.

"I think as a ballclub we're really coming on strong here," Porcello said. "Guys are working. It's September. Everybody's had a long season, but everybody's coming in with focus, and they're playing good baseball."

The Tigers have to be feeling good about turning to Sanchez (14-7, 2.50 ERA), who is 7-0 with a 2.00 ERA in his last 10 starts. The right-hander struck out 10 over 7 1-3 innings of five-hit ball in Wednesday's 1-0 road win over the Chicago White Sox, setting a personal best with his 14th victory.

"It was a really good game," he said after outdueling Jose Quintana. "Both pitchers, we're fighting because we don't have the run support - I had it at the end, but early. I think I had a really good game.

"Even though we're in a race for the postseason, I'd rather be in a good game."

Sanchez has been especially good at home, going 8-2 in 12 outings while compiling a 2.41 ERA, the AL's second-lowest mark. In his only matchup against Seattle, Sanchez allowed one run in six innings in a 2-1, 10-inning loss June 26, 2011, while with the Marlins.

Justin Smoak is 0 for 6 in their matchups, and Franklin Gutierrez and Kendrys Morales are both 0 for 3. Morales has four hits in his last 32 at-bats at Comerica Park.

The Mariners (66-84) have dropped seven of eight, a stretch during which they have hit .190 and been outscored 48-17. Third baseman Kyle Seager is mired in a 2-for-32 funk (.063), and rookie catcher Mike Zunino is 4 for his last 30 (.133).

"Everyone hates losing," said Smoak, who went 2 for 4 to snap an 0-for-16 slump. "We've been in tight ballgames and haven't been able to get the big hit."

Seattle will try to get back on track behind rookie Brandon Maurer (4-8, 7.18). The right-hander was tagged for five runs in three innings Wednesday in a 6-1 loss to Houston, his first big league start since May 28.

"It's something he's dealt with before," manager Eric Wedge said of Maurer, who dropped to 2-8 with a 7.39 ERA in 11 starts. "When he gets into trouble he is not able to control the damage and he can't stop it. It dominos on him."

Set to make his first appearance against the Tigers, Maurer will need to be wary of Hunter, who is 24 for 53 (.453) with a homer and eight RBIs in his last 13 games versus Seattle.

Detroit has won 17 of its last 19 home games when Hunter drives in at least one run.

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