Tigers streak into Baltimore

The Detroit Tigers go after a sixth straight win this evening when they open a three-game series with the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.

Picked by most to run away with the American League Central this season, the Tigers find themselves in third place, 3 1/2 games back of the Chicago White Sox for the division lead.

"We know what we got to do," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "We got a big grind ahead of us and I look forward to that. It's a nice challenge. I see some signs of some good things [but] we're not over the hump."

A big reason why so many people were high on the Tigers at the start of the season was the free agent signing of first baseman Prince Fielder, who comes into tonight's contest on the heels of winning his second Home Run Derby crown.

Fielder, who has never played at Camden Yards, is second to Miguel Cabrera on the team with 15 homers and 63 RBI. He totaled 28 home runs over three rounds to win Monday's Home Run Derby in Kansas City. He had the four longest drives of the night, including a pair at 476 feet.

Tonight, the Tigers turn to righty Doug Fister, who endured an injury-plagued first half and was just 2-6 with a 4.75 ERA. He was even worse on the road, where he was 0-4 in six starts, while pitching to a 4.89 ERA.

Fister has faced the Orioles four times and is 2-1 with a 4.68 ERA.

While the Tigers were one of the bigger disappointments in the league in the first half, the Orioles were perhaps the biggest surprise in the AL. Baltimore was in first place for a good part of the first two months and went into the break five games over .500 at 45-40.

The Orioles, though, come into tonight's tilt having lost nine of their last 13 games, it's the first time the team is over the break-even mark at the break since 2005. Baltimore, of course, has had 14 straight losing seasons.

"The story's yet to be written," manager Buck Showalter said. "The season's not over. It's an unfinished story. I mean, everybody this time of year knows they've done some things good and some things that they've got to do better at."

A big reason for that success was the play of right-hander Jason Hammel, who was one of the best pitchers in the AL in the first half, but lost his final three starts.

Hammel was 8-2 with a 2.61 ERA after tossing eight scoreless innings to beat the Washington Nationals on June 22. However, he gave up 15 runs in losing his next three starts and went into the break sporting a 3.47 ERA.

"He's given us a chance to win pretty much every time out," Showalter said. "We couldn't ask for more, and knowing Hamm, he's not going to take any feel- good from that. He pitched as well as any guy can for the most part."

Baltimore hopes to have outfielder Nick Markakis in the lineup tonight. Markakis last played on May 29 and is recovering from right wrist surgery.

The Orioles split their 10 games with the Tigers last season.