The Detroit Tigers, fresh off their solid 7-2 road swing, return home for a nine game stretch. The series opens with the Oakland Athletics, the top team in the American League, who split with the Tigers initially following a May series.
Monday night's bigger news, however, should be the reunion of several members of the 1984 Tigers, including Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker. The team will hold a special ceremony prior to the game on the field honoring the champs, hearkening back memories that are now turning 30 years old.
It will be a special night for the former players, fans and current competitors as baseball history is celebrated. What else is worth watching on the field during a potential playoff preview against Oakland? Here's the rundown.
1. June Heat. The Athletics have been the hottest team in baseball during June, amassing a 17-8 record over that stretch. Additionally, the Tigers are in the midst of a 8-2 stretch over their last ten games, including two sweeps and a victory over the Kansas City Royals. Both teams are reasonably hot as the series begins, which should make for some quality baseball.
2. Patience Is A Virtue. In a series which figures to be very close, a key statistic to watch might be walks. Oakland has a total of 331 which is best in the majors, while Detroit has collected 217, which isn't nearly as good of a total. Detroit pitchers will have to be on their game to limit the free passes this series, because when they get going, the A's can score runs in bunches—418 to be exact, which also leads the majors.
3. Starting Right At Home. Detroit has received a quality start in 9 of the team's last 11 outings, which is an impressive margin that can explain the return to winning. They haven't been able to get many good starts at home, however, and have seen their offense have to forge comebacks in plenty of lopsided outings. It will be important for Anibal Sanchez to do what he did against the Royals before the Tigers left Comerica Park: keep the opposition off the scoreboard and allow his offense a chance to shine.
4. Kaz Has It Against Detroit. Though Scott Kazmir's numbers career against the Tigers aren't great (5-5 with a 3.64 ERA), the Tigers have lost three times to Kazmir at Comerica Park, where he maintains a solid 3.09 ERA. During the team's last meeting in May, Kazmir threw a six hit, 3-1 win over Detroit. He's always done just enough to win and keep the Tigers off balance in the process. They'll have to buck that trend this time around to start the series on the right foot.
5. Can J.D. Martinez Be Just As Dominant? Martinez, who found his current hot streak the last time Detroit was at home, didn't cool off any on the road and is still hitting .319. A good litmus test for Martinez should be the Athletics' pitching staff, who has a 3.16 average collectively, good for second in the league. If Martinez can continue to hit the ball well against a solid staff, the worries many hve about him coming back down to earth should begin to cease.
Max DeMara is the editor of @tigers_101. Follow the site there on Twitter, or like it on Facebook to connect with him.
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