They made it interesting in the series-clinching game on Wednesday, but the Detroit Tigers managed to complete a mini two-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds this week. It marks the first time Detroit has won consecutive games since July 6-7 and it is their first home series win since Father’s Day weekend against the Minnesota Twins.
Carrying the most momentum they have had in nearly a month, the Tigers (47-62) now pack their bags and head for the west coast to begin a six-game road trip. It will start with three games against the sport’s hottest team over the last quarter of the season — the Oakland Athletics (64-46).
On June 15, the A’s fell to the Los Angeles Angels at home, extending a losing streak to four games, dropping their overall record to 34-36 and 11 games out of the wild card race in the American League. Since then, nobody has played better baseball than Oakland, evident by their 30-10 record and entered Thursday tied with division rival Seattle for the second wild card spot. They also lead all of Major League Baseball in home runs (61), runs (225), and extra-base hits during that span (153).
The Athletics swept a four-game series in Detroit back in June, continuing their historical dominance of the Tigers in games played at Comerica Park. They’ve also won each of the last two series head-to-head at the God-forsaken Coliseum (seriously, can we get their new stadium situation figured out, please?).
Game 1 | Blaine Hardy (Tigers) vs. Brett Anderson (Athletics)
Blaine Hardy (4-3, 3.61 ERA) has been a very valuable and (mostly) reliable pitcher for the Tigers this season, being called upon to make starts when [insert rotation member here] is injured. Hardy has appeared in 20 games this year, half of which have been in a starting role, including his last two appearances. He last pitched on July 28 against the Cleveland Indians, tossing five innings of one-run ball. This will be Hardy’s second start against the Athletics this year, he allowed six runs (three earned) over four innings.
Oakland will counter with a lefty of their own in the series opener. One would be hard-pressed to find many pitchers who have battled more injuries in their career than Brett Anderson (2-3, 5.55 ERA). The 30-year-old has logged 30+ major league starts in a season just twice in his 10-year career and never more than 19 in the other eight seasons. This year was no exception, Anderson did not make his debut until May 2 and made four starts before missing nearly two months again. He has an ERA just under 4.00 in his four starts since coming off the disabled list in early July.
Game 2 | Jordan Zimmermann (Tigers) vs. Edwin Jackson (Athletics)
One of our five potential August trade candidates for the Tigers, Jordan Zimmermann (4-3, 4.44 ERA) is going to need to turn things around if any shred of trade talks are going to come to fruition. Zimmermann lasted just three innings in his last start, surrendering five runs on six hits to the Indians. His ERA over his last three starts is a shade under 8.00 and the opponent OPS is a notch under 1.100. He tossed five scoreless frames against the A’s back on June 25, throwing just 79 pitches as it was his second outing coming off the DL.
Hey look, it is our old friend Edwin Jackson! Can you believe he is still only 34 years of age? Jackson (2-2, 3.34 ERA) signed a minor league deal with Oakland back in early June, marking the Athletics as his 13th different major league club in his 16-year career; the 13 different teams for Jackson are tied with former Tigers reliever Octavio Dotel for the most by any single player in baseball history. He is literally the definition of a journeyman. Jackson has been very solid for the A’s, allowing three runs or fewer in all but one of his seven starts, including 5.2 shutout innings in his last outing.
Game 3 | Francisco Liriano (Tigers) vs. Trevor Cahill (Athletics)
Francisco Liriano (3-5, 4.41 ERA) had his July 28 scheduled start skipped after he suffered a strange allergic reaction to some chemicals in some grass that was being redone near his home during the All-Star break; he was replaced by the aforementioned Blaine Hardy. Liriano did end up pitching the next day, throwing two scoreless innings of relief after an early departure from Zimmermann. Albeit a small sample size, Liriano has been better in his last three appearances (1.86 ERA in 9.2 IP). He missed the Athletics in the first meeting between these two teams but owns a 4.28 ERA in 20 career games against Oakland.
Trevor Cahill (3-2, 3.32 ERA) has had a bit of an up-and-down career. He averaged 30 starts a year from 2009-13 before finding himself in a middle relief/spot start role over the next four seasons. This is his second stint with the Athletics, the team that drafted him in the second round in 2006 and later debuted with in ’09. Cahill signed with the A’s back in March on a one-year flier and has done well in his 12 starts, although his ERA is near 5.00 in four starts since coming off the DL in mid-July. Cahill has been dominant at home this season, pitching to a microscopic 1.13 ERA in six starts at the Coliseum.
HITTERS TO WATCH
After trading Leonys Martín to the Indians on deadline day, the Tigers recalled outfielder Mike Gerber to assume the vacancy on the 25-man roster. Gerber figures to get some early looks down the stretch here, albeit not in an everyday role unless he rakes and some other guys do not. Gerber got the nod in left field on Tuesday against the Reds, recording his first career hit and RBI on what eventually became the game-winning double for the Tigers.
The Athletics as a team have compiled a .872 OPS since the All-Star break, just a tick behind the Baltimore Orioles (huh?) for the highest in baseball. Helping lead that charge has been slugger Khris Davis. The 30-year-old has clubbed 40+ homers and driven in 100+ RBI in each of the last two seasons and is well on pace to do that again. Leading the team in both departments, Davis has eight bombs and 20 ribeye steak sandwiches in the second half.
- Game 1 | Fri, Aug 3 @ 10:05 p.m. ET
- Game 2 | Sat, Aug 4 @ 9:05 p.m. ET
- Game 3 | Sun, Aug 5 @ 4:05 p.m. ET
All games can be seen on Fox Sports Detroit unless otherwise noted. Be sure to check your local listings for regional radio broadcasts.