Fighting hard to try and keep pace in the American League Central, the Detroit Tigers hunt for their second straight win and the fifth in the last six games as they close out a three-game set against the visiting Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Comerica Park.
Detroit, which has lost just eight times in the month of August, finds itself trailing the Chicago White Sox for first place in the division by 2 1/2 games, but that's only because Chicago has rattled off five consecutive victories and has captured wins in seven of its last 10.
The Tigers needed some late-game heroics on Saturday night in order to come up with the 5-3 victory as Jhonny Peralta doubled in Prince Fielder and Andy Dirks in the eighth inning and then scored himself on a single by Alex Avila. Fielder and Delmon Young both notched three hits in the outing, the latter posting a pair of doubles as he plated one run and scored once for the hosts as they moved to 38-26 in their own stadium.
Detroit starter Drew Smyly didn't earn the victory, that instead went to Octavio Dotel, but the youngster did have a very strong game as he lasted six innings, giving up three runs -- just one earned -- on four hits and a couple of walks while striking out six. Unfortunately, the defense behind Smyly made three errors and that prevented him from capturing the victory, although he was still pleased with his efforts.
"I'd say it's at the top," Smyly said. "It's been two months since I've pitched out there, and against a heavy right-handed lineup in the Angels. We were down the whole game and all you can do is just try to keep your team in the game. It's just a matter of time until they put hits together like they did in the eighth.
Smyly didn't have to face Albert Pujols who was a spectator for the third straight game due to right calf inflammation. Nevertheless, the hurler did play a part in holding both Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo hitless in eight at- bats as the pair of sluggers struck out a collective four times.
Vernon Wells tried to pick up some of the slack with his ninth home run of the season, a solo shot, but it did nothing to change the final outcome for an Angels squad which is now 9 1/2 games off the pace in the AL West where they trail both Texas and Oakland in the standings.
Dan Haren got the start for the Angels, lasting 5 2/3 innings as he allowed two runs on eight hits and fanned seven, while Garrett Richards was the one who suffered the loss as he gave up the three runs in the eighth as he permitted three hits.
"Every loss is a tough loss at this point," Haren said. "That was a battle. We're batting another playoff-contending team. They're obviously not going to lay down against us in the late innings. ... We've got to come out tomorrow and take the series. If we are flying home taking five out of six games, then I think we accomplished what we needed to do."
Unbeaten in his last three outings, Max Scherzer readies to take the hill once more for the Tigers this afternoon. The right-hander, who needs two more victories to match his career high of 15 set just last season, has actually won five of his last six decisions overall and struck out at least eight in every one of those outings.
On Tuesday Scherzer matched up against Toronto at home and allowed just a single run on five hits and a couple of walks, fanning eight through seven innings as the Tigers picked up the 5-3 triumph.
A native of Missouri, Scherzer already has a win against the Angels this season and is now 1-1 in his career with a 3.18 ERA versus the club.
As for the Angels, they are hoping Ervin Santana can continue his strong play of late which has resulted in two straight wins and victories in his most recent three decisions overall.
The right-hander, 6-2 with a 3.51 ERA in his career against the Tigers, last pitched on Tuesday in Boston where he gave up two runs on five hits and a couple of walks, fanning four over the course of 6 1/3 innings of a 5-3 victory for the visitors.
Having had difficulty with his ERA this season, Santana has shown some better pitch control of late, issuing only six bases-on-balls in as many appearances.
With all six games in the season series having been played in the Motor City thus far, the Tigers have taken advantage of the familiar surroundings by posting four wins over LA.