Orioles, Tigers start set at Comerica Park

The American League wild card leaders face one of their closest pursuers tonight when the Baltimore Orioles head to Comerica Park to open a three-game series with the host Detroit Tigers.

Baltimore enters the game sharing the lead in the race for the league's two wild card berths with Tampa Bay, which has an identical 64-54 record.

The Tigers are a game behind the duo at 63-55.

The Orioles and Rays are six games behind the New York Yankees in the AL's East Division, while Detroit has a narrower gap to make up - trailing the first-place Chicago White Sox by just 2 1/2 games.

The Tigers open the series with ace Justin Verlander, who's unbeaten in 10 career starts against Baltimore.

Verlander improved to 7-0 against the Orioles on July 15 at Camden Yards, where he went eight scoreless innings and allowed three hits in a 4-0 victory.

In 73 innings against Baltimore, he's held Orioles hitters to just a .205 average while surrendering 55 hits and 24 runs - while striking out 65.

He was a 7-2 winner over the Yankees in his last decision Aug. 6, then got a tough-luck no-decision Aug. 11 against Texas.

Baltimore goes with righty Tommy Hunter, who faces Detroit for the third time in his career and aims for a third straight win.

In two previous outings, he's allowed just a run on eight hits in 14 innings with four walks and nine strikeouts. Tigers hitters have managed just a .163 average against him.

A 13-game winner with Texas in 2010, Hunter won four times while splitting 2011 between the Rangers and Orioles. His last win in 2012 came after a 7 1/3- inning performance against Minnesota on July 18.

In five outings since, he's 0-3 while allowing 29 hits and 13 runs in 23 2/3 innings.

On Thursday in Baltimore, Adrian Gonzalez knocked in two runs and Dustin Pedroia had two hits, scored twice and drove in a run as the Boston Red Sox topped the Orioles, 6-3, to avoid a three-game sweep.

Mark Reynolds had two hits, including a solo homer, and Adam Jones drove in a pair for the Orioles, who lost for the just the third time in 12 games.

Chris Tillman started for Baltimore and surrendered three runs on six hits and struck out five over 4 2/3 innings. Luis Ayala (4-4) was pegged with the loss after giving up three runs on four hits in just one inning of work.

"(Tillman's) stuff was good," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "You have to tip your hat a little bit to Boston, they really made him work for everything."

On Wednesday in Minnesota, Max Scherzer struck out 10 batters over seven scoreless innings Wednesday as the Tigers downed the Twins, 5-1, in the rubber match of a three-game set at Target Field.

Scherzer (12-6) scattered four hits and walked two to earn the victory and has now fanned eight or more in six consecutive starts.

"After that second inning, I was frustrated with myself," Scherzer said. "I needed to fire myself up and go after them and be aggressive with it. From then on I was able to stay in the zone."

Miguel Cabrera knocked in two runs and clubbed his 30th home run of the year, becoming the first player in Tigers history to hit at least 30 home runs in five straight seasons.

Delmon Young added a two-run shot for the Tigers, who wrapped up a six-game road trip at 3-3.

Detroit won two of three games in a July series at Comerica Park and the teams split their 2011 season series, five games apiece.