(Sports Network) - After finally putting an end to their worst skid of the season, the Detroit Tigers will turn to their ace pitcher in hopes of starting a winning streak in this afternoon's opener of a four-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays from Comerica Park.
Detroit lost its final game prior to the All-Star break and six straight contests to begin the second half before coming through with a victory over American League West-leading Texas last night. Max Scherzer got the Tigers off the schneid by throwing seven shutout innings, while one-time Ranger Gerald Laird belted a two-run homer in the bottom of the second to help stake his team to a much-needed 4-1 win.
Laird finished 2-for-4 and gave Detroit an early 2-0 advantage with a blast off Texas starter Colby Lewis in his first at-bat. That was all Scherzer (7-7) would need, as the former first-round pick limited the Rangers to four hits and struck out five in a determined performance.
"I came in with the mentality that I was gonna end this seven-game losing streak," said Scherzer. "It's been bad, starting off since the All-Star break. For me to go out there and put up seven zeroes was a serious matter."
Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera also knocked in runs for the Tigers, who closed within 2 1/2 games of first-place Chicago in the AL Central standings, while Austin Jackson contributed three hits and a run scored to the winning effort.
Detroit could get a similar strong showing on the hill this afternoon, considering the way Justin Verlander has pitched as of late. The All-Star hurler has won three straight and six of his last seven decisions to run his 2010 record to 11-5 in 19 starts.
Verlander's three-start win streak did come to an end when he was reached for three runs in a six-inning no-decision at Cleveland on Saturday, but the hard- throwing righty did register nine strikeouts and did not allow a home run for the fifth consecutive outing.
Most of Verlander's recent success has come at Comerica Park, where he's won in each of his last four assignments and sports a 6-2 record with a 2.70 earned run average in nine starts this season. The 27-year-old has not fared well when facing the Blue Jays in the past, however. In three prior meetings with Toronto, Verlander is 0-2 and been roughed up for 19 runs and 25 hits over a span of 15 innings.
The Blue Jays should present a challenge for the Tigers' No. 1 starter. After all, Toronto does overwhelmingly lead the majors with 143 home runs and had gone deep in 13 straight games before failing to do so in yesterday's 5-2 loss at Kansas City. Outfielder Jose Bautista presently tops all of baseball with 26 individual homers, two more than the Tigers' Cabrera.
Toronto's powerful offense was held in check by the Royals' Zack Greinke on Wednesday, however, as the Jays mustered just a pair of runs and six hits in the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner's eight innings of work.
"He pounds the zone and he locates so well with his fastball," Toronto's Aaron Hill said of Greinke. "If he could get ahead with his fastball, you never know what's coming next. It's what has always has made him good."
Vernon Wells did finish 3-for-4 with a run scored for the Jays, while Adam Lind singled in the ninth inning to extend his hitting streak to 14 games. The designated hitter is batting .293 (17-for-58) with four homers during that sequence.
Toronto lost two of three bouts in its series with the Royals, but is 4-2 thus far on a 10-game road trip that continues tonight.
The Blue Jays will send out one of their top pitchers as well for tonight's clash, with Ricky Romero aiming to build off a terrific first appearance following the break. The talented left-hander held Baltimore to two unearned runs and five hits over seven innings in a 4-2 victory this past Friday, snapping a string of three straight losing starts in the process.
Romero had been lousy in each of his final two mound trips of the first half. The 25-year-old was battered for eight runs and seven hits by the New York Yankees in a forgettable 2 2/3-inning stint on July 3, then lasted only 2 1/3 frames while surrendering nine runs (five earned) in a loss to fellow AL Central member Boston six days later.
A 13-game winner as a rookie in 2009, Romero opposed the Tigers twice last season and went 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA. The defeat took place at Comerica Park in September, when he was touched for four runs and 10 hits in six innings.
Toronto did prevail in five of eight matchups against the Tigers in 2009, with the clubs splitting a four-game set in the Motor City from September 11-14.