A return to interleague play appears to have given the Detroit Tigers just the boost they needed to end their recent struggles.
After winning back-to-back games to conclude the weekend, the Tigers may have a good chance to keep heading in the right direction when they take on the struggling Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night.
Detroit (28-32) had dropped seven of 10 heading into a series against NL Central-leading Cincinnati, but left Great American Ball Park with two victories in three games. Austin Jackson homered and hit a two-run double off Reds closer Aroldis Chapman to rally his team to a 7-6 win Sunday.
"Taking two out of three from a first-place team and a really good team is a step in the right direction. We've certainly been challenged. We need to get a couple of our guys back," manager Jim Leyland said. "We've got to be tough."
The Tigers have been very tough on the Cubs in recent matchups, winning seven in a row. They recorded a three-game sweep during their most recent visit to Wrigley Field from June 16-18, 2006.
Detroit has won of 11 of 14 meetings with Chicago during interleague play and five straight at Wrigley.
Chicago (20-40) has lost 20 of 25 and sits at the bottom of the NL Central as it returns home after a 2-8 road trip. The Cubs have won three straight at Wrigley by virtue of a sweep of San Diego from May 28-30.
They stopped a four-game skid with an 8-2 win over Minnesota on Sunday.
"We needed to go out feeling OK, get good self-esteem about our team," outfielder David DeJesus told the team's website. "We have a tough series ahead of us and at least we can go home feeling, 'Yes, we won a game,' and hopefully we can get that feeling again in Chicago."
Paul Maholm (4-5, 5.10 ERA) is looking to end a three-game losing streak after lasting four innings during an 8-0 defeat to Milwaukee on Wednesday. He gave up four runs and has posted a 6.41 ERA over his last five starts, not pitching more than 5 1-3 innings in his last three outings.
"You have to keep going. I have 20-some starts left," Maholm said. "Trust me, I'm not happy. I'm not having fun. It's time for me to get deeper into games on a consistent basis."
The left-hander has gone 0-1 with a 2.38 ERA in two starts against Detroit. He gave up two runs over 5 1-3 innings of a 2-0 home loss to the Tigers for Pittsburgh on May 22, 2011.
The Tigers' scheduled starter will also be looking to get back on track, as Max Scherzer (5-4, 5.88) is coming off his worst outing of the year. The right-hander gave up a season-high eight runs over 4 1-3 innings of a 9-6 loss to Cleveland on Wednesday.
Scherzer did not get a decision in his only start against the Cubs on May 10, 2008, while with Arizona, pitching six innings and giving up no earned runs in a 7-2 loss.