Tigers go for first series sweep since April 12 Wednesday vs. Cubs
CHICAGO – The 2015 season has been long and difficult for Detroit Tigers fans, who've grown used to success during the team's four-year stranglehold over the American League Central Division.
The team is four games below .500, 15 games behind the Kansas City Royals and seventh in the current wildcard standings. Barring a minor miracle, the Tigers' year will end on Oct. 4 with most fans already paying more attention to the Detroit Lions across the street.
But while baseball's still here, Tigers fans should savor the small victories.
One of those moments could come Wednesday night in Chicago, as the Tigers go for their second straight victory over the 67-50 Cubs. With a win, Detroit would earn its first series sweep since April 12, when it improved to 6-0 with a win over the Cleveland Indians.
That's 129 days since the Tigers swept a series. In that span, the Tigers have played a total of 35 series, including seven against current last-place teams. Even the Phillies, the worst team in MLB, have swept four series since April 12.
Yes, it's only a two-game series. But a sweep is a sweep, and the Tigers, who have struggled to put together any kind of run since the first two weeks of the season, would jump on the chance to gain some momentum.
Daniel Norris will take the mound for his fourth start since joining the Tigers via the David Price trade. Norris tossed a quality start against the Royals his last time out, allowing six hits and three earned runs in 6 1/3 innings.
Norris has surrendered 19 hits and nine earned runs in his three starts with Detroit, but two of those starts have been strong outings, with the five-run effort against Boston as his only blemish. He's never pitched against the Cubs.
Chicago will counter with a left-hander of its own, the resurgent Jon Lester. Lester has been on a tear since the end of June, allowing two runs in each of his last four starts after allowing no runs in three of his first four outings in July. In total, teams have scored just 12 earned runs in Lester's last 56 1/3 innings.
Like most lefties, Lester cannot figure out Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera hits .560 against Lester in 25 at-bats, including four doubles, a homer and eight walks. Victor Martinez has similar success in the matchup, hitting .431 with four extra-base hits in 19 at-bats.
Rajai Davis saw Lester often during their time in the AL East and comes into the game 14-44 (.318) with three doubles, three triples, a homer and 11 strikeouts in his career against the 31-year-old.
Davis will return to the lineup, batting leadoff on Wednesday:
Rajai Davis, LF
Ian Kinsler, 2B
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
J.D. Martinez, RF
Nick Castellanos, 3B
James McCann, C
Jose Iglesias, SS
Anthony Gose, CF
Daniel Norris, SP
Chicago will shake things up after the series opener:
Dexter Fowler, CF
Kyle Schwarber, LF
Kris Bryant, 3B
Anthony Rizzo, 1B
Jorge Soler, RF
Starlin Castro, 2B
David Ross, C
Jon Lester, SP
Addison Russell, SS
The Tigers' schedule won't get any easier after leaving Chicago. Thirteen of their next 14 games will come against teams over .500, including six straight road games against the powerhouse Blue Jays and Royals. Prince Fielder and the Texas Rangers will kick off that stretch with a four-game series in Detroit, starting Thursday.
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