The Detroit Tigers finally are back at the .500 mark, but that hardly seems like an accomplishment given their preseason expectations.
Doug Fister isn't exactly playing up to standards, either, after a promising 2011 campaign.
Fister will look to get back on track and help Detroit to its first four-game winning streak since the early stages of the season when he faces the Kansas City Royals on Saturday night at Comerica Park.
The Tigers (42-42) had failed in their previous eight attempts to reach the .500 mark for the first time since May 15, but Delmon Young's go-ahead two-run homer in the sixth inning held up in Friday's series-opening 4-2 victory.
Picked by most this spring to repeat as AL Central champs but currently four games behind the first-place White Sox, Detroit hasn't won four straight since April 15-18, a streak capped by a three-game sweep of Kansas City.
"It means we've been winning," Young told the Tigers' official website. "We look a lot better on paper at .500 in a pennant race than five games below .500 and three games out."
The Tigers acquired Fister from Seattle at the trade deadline last season. The right-hander proceeded to go 10-2 with a 2.37 ERA in 12 starts and two relief appearances including postseason, but he's struggled in 2012.
Fister (1-6, 4.61 ERA) hasn't been able to get past the fifth inning in either of his last two outings. He gave up a career-worst nine runs in 4 1-3 innings of a 13-9 loss to Texas on June 27, then allowed six runs in four innings of Monday's 6-4 defeat against Minnesota to fall to 1-4 with a 7.82 ERA over his last five outings.
Fister also had a stint on the 15-day disabled list due to a strained left side that ended June 16.
"To be honest with you, Doug's doing his best out there," catcher Alex Avila said. "It's something that you have to be patient with him about, because he came off the DL and just started pitching. These last couple of starts, it's almost like his rehab starts."
Fister picked up a 6-3 win in relief over the Royals on Sept. 21, but he's 0-2 with a 4.05 ERA in four career starts against them.
Kansas City has dropped six of eight after its first three hitters - Alex Gordon, Alcides Escobar and Eric Hosmer - went a combined 0 for 12 with six strikeouts Friday.
The Royals (37-45) seek to recover with the help of Bruce Chen, who is looking to bounce back from a tough outing himself.
Chen (7-7, 4.83) had won two straight starts before giving up six runs in 5 2-3 innings of a 10-8 loss to Minnesota on Sunday. The left-hander allowed five of the runs in the sixth while squandering a four-run lead.
"I feel bad,'' said Chen, who allowed six runs for the fifth time this season. "We had a good lead and I felt I let the game get away from me. I felt I had all of my pitches going and shouldn't have given up six runs."
Chen had a solid outing against the Tigers on April 17 despite suffering a 3-1 loss, allowing two runs in seven innings. He's 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA in his last four starts versus Detroit.
The Tigers have won five of six meetings between the teams in 2012.