Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011
Posted: 9:51 a.m.
The Detroit Tigers aren't just cruising toward their first division championship since 1987. They're steaming toward that title with one of their longest win streaks in team history.
The Tigers will try to move a step closer to clinching the AL Central by winning 12 in a row for the first time since 1934 on Wednesday against the Chicago White Sox.
Detroit (86-62) reduced its magic number to four with a 5-0 win in Chicago on Tuesday, its 21st in 25 games. That victory marked the first time the Tigers had won 11 straight since Sept. 9-21, 1968, a season that ended with a World Series championship.
Detroit has produced at the plate and on the mound during its streak, batting .334 and averaging more than eight runs while posting a 2.36 ERA.
Miguel Cabrera is hitting .390 with 12 RBIs during the run, while Victor Martinez has driven in 17 in Detroit's last nine games.
"You look at the talent around this room, if everybody gets rolling it's going to be tough to beat us," pitcher Justin Verlander said after earning his MLB-best 23rd win Tuesday. "This last couple of weeks, it's been an example of that."
The Tigers haven't won 12 straight since a team record-tying 14-game run July 31-Aug. 14, 1934, but Brad Penny (10-10, 5.19 ERA) may not be the best candidate to help his team accomplish that feat.
The right-hander is 3-4 with a 6.89 ERA over his last nine starts and has allowed 19 runs - 15 earned - over 15 innings in his last three outings. Penny, however, got the win in an 8-4 victory over Minnesota on Friday after allowing four runs over five innings.
"(My teammates are) going to score a lot of runs," Penny said. "If you can keep them somewhat close, you've got a chance to win."
The Tigers have won all four of Penny's starts against the White Sox (73-74) this season, and he's 3-0 with a 3.80 ERA. However, he gave up eight runs - four earned - and 10 hits over five innings in the most recent matchup Sept. 3 and avoided a loss only when Detroit pulled off a stunning rally for a 9-8 victory.
The Tigers have won 20 of 26 over the White Sox, outscoring them 54-15 in five consecutive wins this month. They've also won 10 of 13 at U.S. Cellular Field.
Detroit will try to add to that success by spoiling the first career start for Dylan Axelrod (0-0, 0.00). The right-hander pitched two scoreless innings in relief against Minnesota in his major league debut last Wednesday.
"I'm definitely excited to get that chance. I want to go out there and see what I can do," Axelrod told the White Sox's official website. "It should be great."
Axelrod was 6-1 with a 2.27 ERA in 15 starts for Triple-A Charlotte before being recalled last week.
Alex Rios will try to help his rookie teammate by continuing his success against Penny. The outfielder is 13 for 21 with five doubles versus the right-hander in his career and 4 for 9 with one double this season.
Cabrera is batting .381 this season against the White Sox and is 9 for 20 with five doubles, two homers and nine RBIs in the past five matchups.
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