The Los Angeles Dodgers rarely visit Comerica Park. 2008 was the last time they did, and the Dodgers got swept. This season, things figure to be much more even considering the teams already split two earlier games on the west coast.
When the Dodger blue and the English D collide, thoughts immediately shift to the World Series, and a possible match up between the teams. Last season, it could've happened, but this year, considering the overall strength of both teams, it might be a better bet than 2013.
There's a long way to go until October, but the season series finishes with this brief two game set this week. What's worth watching? Here's five stories.
1. Puig Mania. In the first two games of the season series in early April, Yasiel Puig was only used as a pinch hitter, going 0-1. This time around, he figures to see more time in the field. How will the superstar look up close and personal at Comerica Park? In baseball, there's few players with the ability to change a game quite like Puig can, and he might have to in order to help the Dodgers win in Detroit.
2. Avoiding Rough Innings. In their last three games, the Tigers have been done in by one bad inning from a starting pitcher. Saturday, it was the fifth when Anibal Sanchez went bad. Sunday, the first inning cost Rick Porcello dearly on the score sheet. Justin Verlander tiptoed around danger a few times the last time he pitched in beating the Athletics, so he will have to do that again and avoid the big inning. Last time they met, the Tigers only had one inning that got away, and it was a three run ninth. The Dodgers had one messy, three run inning. Hopefully, this series will prove to be as clean again.
3. Interleague Beasts. The Tigers have been the second best interleague team since 2006, compiling a 95-56 record. This season, they're only 2-3, but have a chance to add to their margin at home, where Detroit has also been good against cross-league foes. Get the Tigers into a match up with the National League and they flex their muscles more often than not. In another statement series, they'll have to do so again at home.
4. Bullpen Battles. Each game in Los Angeles went down to the wire, with the Tigers and Dodgers each using multiple pitchers, even in the wake of solid starts. Since that series, a few positive developments have happened for Detroit, with Phil Coke pitching better and Joe Nathan not struggling nearly as much. Joba Chamberlain has also evolved into a consistent option, and newcomers like Chad Smith and Blaine Hardy have shown well. In a battle of bullpens, the Tigers might have the horses to better survive an extra inning affair.
5. On Point With Runners On Base. Both the Dodgers and Tigers do a good job cashing in the runners from second and third. Los Angeles leads the league, hitting .279 with runners in scoring position, while the Tigers don't do much worse, batting .272. Watch out for Dee Gordon (.373), Puig (.343), Juan Uribe (.302), and Hanley Ramirez (.301) while Los Angeles happens to have ducks on the pond the next two days.
Max DeMara is the editor of @tigers_101. Follow the site there on Twitter, or like it on Facebook to connect with him.Tags: Baseball, Detroit, Detroit Tigers, Joba Chamberlain, Justin Verlander, MLB, Phil Coke