The Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics may possess the two best records in the American League, but neither team is playing like a championship contender at the moment.
The Athletics, who host the Tigers for the first of four games starting Monday, began a nine-game road trip on May 16 with five straight victories. However, their AL-best offense began to short circuit after the first series and they have paid the price with their first four-game losing streak since May 6-10, 2013.
Oakland (30-20) has been scored three runs or fewer in six straight contests, but may be catching Detroit (28-18) at the right time as its pitching staff has been battered during a 1-6 slide. The Tigers surrendered 22 runs while getting swept by the Cleveland Indians and were pounded for 35 more while dropping three of four at home to the Texas Rangers.
The series will be the first between the leaders of the AL Central (Detroit) and West (Oakland) since the Tigers defeated the Athletics in five games during last season’s AL Divisional Series.
TV: 4:05 p.m. ET, FSN Detroit, CSN California (Oakland)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Tigers LH Drew Smyly (2-2, 2.97 ERA) vs. Athletics LH Tommy Milone (2-3, 3.99)
Smyly tossed a flawless inning in relief in Thursday’s loss to the Rangers, but will try to put his last turn behind him on Monday when he makes a start for the first time since May 19. In a five-inning outing where he threw a season-high 110 pitches but did not factor into the decision, the 24-year-old Arkansas native allowed three runs on seven hits and a career-high five walks.
Smyly has been abysmal in three all-time relief appearances against Oakland, failing to record a decision while posting a 19.29 ERA.
Turning in his third straight solid outing, Milone improved to 2-0 with a 1.37 ERA since May 9 with a 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday. The former Washington Nationals farmhand yielded two runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings, further removing himself from his dreadful 0-3 record and 5.86 ERA over his first five starts of the season.
Milone won his only turn against the Tigers in 2013 and has faced Detroit three times in his career, compiling a 2-0 mark with a 3.24 ERA.
1. This series is believed to be the first matchup between two Jewish managers (Detroit’s Brad Ausmus and Oakland’s Bob Melvin) in major-league history.
2. The Athletics are batting .172 and averaging 2.2 runs over their last six games after hitting .286 and averaging 6.8 runs over their previous 11 contests.
3. The Tigers have allowed more runs over their past five games (46) than in any five-game stretch since June 28-July 2, 2011 (51).