The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Detroit Tigers both had serious World Series aspirations heading into this season. But, as they start a three-game series on Friday, both find themselves in danger of missing the postseason altogether.
Despite its recent three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles is still 8 1/2 games back of the American League West-leading Texas Rangers and 2 1/2 games back in the wild card chase. Detroit, meanwhile, is tied with both Baltimore and Oakland for the final AL spot, while sitting 1 1/2 games behind the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central.
Each team, though, may begin this series without a superstar, as the Angels' Albert Pujols is nursing a calf injury, while Detroit third baseman Miguel Cabrera had to leave his team's 3-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday with an ankle injury.
Neither team missed their star on Thursday, as the Angels rallied from an early 6-0 deficit to plate eight runs in the third before winning a wild 14-13 affair in 10 innings at Fenway Park.
"This team still has some fight in it," said Angels outfielder Vernon Wells, whose two-run double in the 10th proved to be the difference. "We know we have a unique opportunity to do something special and, hopefully, we can continue to take advantage of it."
The Tigers also had to fight their way back against the Blue Jays on Thursday, as Alex Avila's game-winning RBI single in the 11th gave them a win.
"We finally got the big hit we were waiting for," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "(Avila) is a grinder. He's going to be a real tough out."
Getting the call for the Angels on Friday will be righty Zack Greinke, who was roughed up by the Tampa Bay Rays his last time out. Greinke gave up six runs and seven hits in six innings, as he fell to 1-2 and raised his ERA to 6.19 since being acquired from Milwaukee.
"It's been a very embarrassing first month (with the Angels)," Greinke said. "I'm getting paid a lot to do better than I'm doing. It's pretty awful. I don't know what it is, but it's not good. It's not acceptable, really."
Greinke has faced the Tigers 25 times (22 starts) and is 11-6 with a 2.84 ERA.
Detroit will counter with righty Rick Porcello, who is 9-8 with a 4.67 ERA. Porcello lost his second straight start on Saturday in Baltimore, despite a decent effort that saw him allow three runs - all on a 3-run HR - and seven hits in six innings.
"Really, it's just one pitch I got beat on, and it wasn't even a bad pitch," Porcello said after the game. "It happens sometimes. Sometimes you've got to tip your hat to him. It was a good piece of hitting. ... That's kind of the dagger."
Porcello is 3-1 in six starts against the Angels with a 6.29 ERA.
Detroit took three of four from the Angels earlier in the season. Oddly enough, though, the Angels have actually outscored the Tigers, 22-20, in those contests.