Tigers’ daunting task: 10 games in 10 days on the road
DETROIT (MCT) — The next 10 games might decide the Tigers’ season.
Trailing the Chicago White Sox by one game in the American League Central, the Tigers on Friday night begin a 10-day, 10-game trip against the Los Angeles Angels before heading to Chicago and Cleveland.
“The players, the manager and the coaches know the importance of it,” manager Jim Leyland said after a 4-2 home stand ended Wednesday with a 7-1 victory over Cleveland. “The fans know. I’m sure they’ll be watching. I know there will be some late nights for them maybe when we’re in Anaheim, and then off to Chicago.
“I don’t think you can downplay it. It’s an important trip. There’s no question about that. We have to go out and play some better baseball than we have on the road recently.
“If we do that, I’ll take my chances. We’ve got a good team. We’ll just see how it plays out.”
Recent history is not on Detroit’s side.
The Tigers were swept in three games by the Royals in their previous road series and have dropped six of their past nine road games.
The Tigers are 8-13 on the road since the All-Star break.
This will be the fifth and final trip of nine games or longer, and the Tigers haven’t finished any of the previous four with a winning record.
They went 4-5 and 4-6 on two trips in May, 5-5 in June and 3-6 in July.
“They’re all tough at the end,” said Max Scherzer (15-6), who will start tonight against Angels right-hander Ervin Santana (8-11). “Everybody’s fighting for position right now, and every game matters.”
Justin Verlander (13-7) will start Saturday and Anibal Sanchez (2-4) on Sunday.
“Just gotta go out there and grind,” Verlander said. “We knew this was coming. Saw it on the schedule early on. It is what it is.
“We’d like to be 10 games up right now. That’s in a perfect world, but we’re not. But we’re right in the thick of things. Just continue to try and play good baseball and see what happens.”
The Tigers are 5-2 against the Angels this season, with all of those games played at Comerica Park.
“We gotta make sure we take care of business (in Los Angeles) or those games in Chicago won’t mean anything,” catcher Alex Avila said.
Scherzer said: “We’ve gotta play consistent ball and try to win as many series as you can. If we go out there and are able to accomplish something like that, that’s going to allow us to be able to be on top.”
Getting rest is a priority on a long trip.
“The toughest part of going to three cities in 10 days is the travel and the change of time zones,” Avila said. “And just making sure you get your rest in between.”
For Don Kelly, who was recalled from Triple-A Toledo when rosters expanded Sept. 1, flying to the West Coast beats the minor league alternative.
“We had one where we went from Toledo to Syracuse, got in at 6 in the morning by bus,” Kelly said. “They get sleeper buses.”
Kelly said it was tough to sleep on the bus.
“Then we went to Lehigh Valley, got in at 2:30 in the morning. Then we went to Columbus and got in at 6:45 in the morning. It was a grueling road trip.”
Kelly and the other September call-ups will be called upon during this trip.
“You prepare every day for whatever can happen,” Kelly said. “These are big games we’re playing against the Angels and White Sox, two really good teams, and Cleveland, they’re a good team, too. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, we need to get wins.”
The Tigers will have a 10-game home stand following the trip, against Oakland, Minnesota and Kansas City. Then they will finish at Minnesota and at Kansas City.