When the Tigers were last on the West Coast back in April, the American League West was supposed to be a relative dogfight, while the AL Central was still regarded as Chicago's division to lose. Detroit was a curiosity more than a force.
The Tigers are back out west, and the division is still a dogfight. It's just that the dog's bite is worse than its bark. Three teams ended Sunday within one game of the lead. The Tigers play the team up front first, with three games against the A's. Then they finish their first half with one of the two teams nipping on Oakland's heels, with the suddenly dangerous Seattle Mariners.
To make matters tougher, the Tigers don't have an off-day to ease the travel to the West Coast. They left Pittsburgh after squeaking out a 9-8 win and touched down in the Bay Area on Sunday night ahead of a Monday night game followed by two matinees.
Manager Jim Leyland doesn't want to hear it. He wants to see his players grind it out.
"The only thing that bothers me is that we're in Seattle before the All-Star break," he said. "But somebody had to do it."
DET: LHP Nate Robertson (8-3, 3.14)
Robertson has won seven of his last eight decisions since April 22, posting a 2.42 ERA over the 13-game stretch. He outpitched Roger Clemens for his latest victory last Tuesday at Comerica Park, making him the Tigers' third eight-game winner this season.
OAK: RHP Joe Blanton (7-7, 4.85 ERA)
After three commendable starts, Blanton went into a funk against San Diego his last time out, when he gave up five runs (four earned) on six hits over four innings. Blanton is 0-1 against the Tigers with a 14.54 ERA. In his start on April 19 against Detroit, he gave up eight runs (seven earned) on 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings.
Player to watch
Carlos Guillen went 2-for-2 with a walk and two runs scored against Blanton in their April meeting in Oakland.
Tuesday: Tigers (RHP Justin Verlander, 10-4, 3.13) at A's (RHP Dan Haren, 6-6, 3.53), 5:05 p.m. ET
Wednesday: Tigers (LHP Kenny Rogers, 10-3, 3.72) at A's (RHP Kirk Saarloos, 3-4, 4.61), 3:35 p.m. ET
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.