The Detroit Tigers are feeling good after a strong finish to their road trip. Having Justin Verlander on the mound at home against the Baltimore Orioles should have them bursting with confidence.
Detroit opens a nine-game homestand Friday night with the first of three against the Orioles.
After losing three of the first four on their six-game trip, the Tigers (63-55) rebounded with consecutive wins over Minnesota. Miguel Cabrera became the first player in franchise history to reach 30 home runs in five straight seasons and Max Scherzer threw seven scoreless innings in a 5-1 victory Wednesday.
"I'm awful proud of our guys," manager Jim Leyland said.
Leyland's club has won 27 of 43 since June 28, the best record in the AL during that stretch.
Detroit enters this series 2 1/2 games behind the AL Central-leading White Sox and one game in back of Baltimore and Tampa Bay for the two wild-card spots.
Verlander (12-7, 2.46 ERA) dominates most opponents, but he seems to save some of his best performances for the Orioles (64-54). The reigning AL MVP and Cy Young winner is 7-0 with a 2.71 ERA in 10 starts against Baltimore - the only AL team he has not lost to.
He allowed three hits over eight innings in a 4-0 victory at Camden Yards on July 15, striking out eight and walking two.
The Detroit ace is 6-2 with a 1.51 ERA at home, winning four consecutive starts there behind a 1.13 ERA.
Verlander was very good at Texas on Saturday, yielding one run and seven hits over seven innings but left without a decision in a 2-1 loss.
"I was able to make my pitches when I needed to and kept us in the ballgame," Verlander told the team's official website.
The right-hander will be pitching on five days' rest, but the extra day hasn't been much of a benefit. Verlander is 2-3 with a 3.47 ERA in seven starts on five days' rest this season.
That probably won't make Nick Markakis, J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones feel any better. Those Baltimore hitters are a combined 11 for 76 (.148) with 22 strikeouts against Verlander.
Cabrera should also be thrilled to be facing the Orioles. He's batting .511 (23 for 45) with seven homers and 13 RBIs during a 12-game hitting streak versus Baltimore.
Cabrera went 10 for 24 on the six-game trip and is batting .348 with 23 homers and 81 RBIs in his last 88 games.
"I marvel at him all the time," Leyland told the Tigers' official website. "I probably don't brag on him as much as I should."
Baltimore failed to complete a sweep of Boston on Thursday, allowing the Red Sox to rally for a 6-3 victory. Mark Reynolds hit his fourth homer in six games and Jones knocked in two runs as the Orioles settled for a 7-3 homestand.
"Our guys wanted to win all 10. That's the way we approached it," manager Buck Showalter said.
Tommy Hunter (4-7, 5.54) has the unenviable task of opposing Verlander. The right-hander is 0-3 with a 5.09 ERA in his past four starts and last earned a victory July 18 at Minnesota.
He gave up three runs and eight hits over five innings of a 5-3 victory against Kansas City on Sunday, surrendering at least one home run for the 10th straight start.
This will be Hunter's first appearance against the Tigers with Baltimore after going 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA in two starts while with Texas.