Tigers Seek Sixth Straight

As defending American League champions, it's not at all strange to see the Detroit Tigers leading their division at the All-Star break. The Seattle Mariners sitting near the top of the AL West, however, is one of the season's biggest surprises.

The Tigers seek their sixth straight win while the Mariners look for their fourth in a row Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series at Safeco Field.

Oddsmakers have made Seattle -130 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 8.5ev total runs (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 54% of bets for this game have been placed on Seattle -130 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

This is the second consecutive season that Detroit (52-34) has led the Central at the All-Star break. It held a two-game lead over Minnesota at this point last year before closing the season with five straight losses. The Twins won on the final day of the regular season to win the division by one game.

"The second half is a whole new game," Detroit's Curtis Granderson said on the team's official Web site. "Minnesota proved that last year."

After taking two of three from division rival Cleveland, the Tigers made a statement with a three-game sweep of AL East-leading Boston in their last series before the break.

Detroit completed the sweep with a 6-5 victory Sunday, as Gary Sheffield, Carlos Guillen and Marcus Thames all homered off Daisuke Matsuzaka.

It was the 14th win in 19 games overall for the Tigers, who are a major league-best 27-15 on the road, including seven consecutive wins.

Andrew Miller (4-2, 3.31 ERA) looks to build on one of his best performances of the season when he takes the mound for Detroit. The rookie left-hander was outstanding Friday in a 9-2 win over the Red Sox, allowing one run and three hits in seven innings. He matched a season high with six strikeouts in his 109-pitch outing.

Although Miller has pitched well for the most part, he also has received plenty of offensive support. The Tigers have scored 51 runs in his six starts.

Miller's first career loss came against Seattle in relief on Sept. 5, when he gave up one run in two innings.

Little was expected of the Mariners (49-36) after they finished last in the West each of the past three seasons.

Seattle, though, closed the first half with 12 wins in 15 games, and has its best record at the break since it was 58-35 in 2003.

Like last season, the Mariners reached the break 2 1/2 games behind the AL West lead. This year's team, however, is eight games ahead of the 2006 club, which was 43-46 at this point.

"The team is completely different than last year ... the mental state is different and how everyone is taking it is totally different than last year," Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki said. "There have been seasons in the past where the season would already be over at this point."

Ichiro was named MVP of the All-Star game on Tuesday after he went 3-for-3 with the first inside-the-park home run in All-Star game history. The star center fielder is also reportedly close to signing a five-year contract extension with Seattle.

While the Tigers have been excellent on the road, the Mariners have been very tough to beat at home. They have won eight in a row at Safeco Field, their longest home streak since they won 11 straight May 20-June 8, 2001.

Felix Hernandez (5-4, 3.72) opens the second half for Seattle. The right-hander was superb in his final two starts before the break, yielding two runs and seven hits in 16 innings while walking three and striking out seven. He limited Oakland to two hits through eight innings Saturday in a 4-0 victory.

Hernandez, who missed four weeks earlier this season with a right elbow strain, has pitched eight innings in three of his last four starts.

Hernandez is 0-2 in two career starts against the Tigers despite limiting them to two earned runs and nine hits in 12 innings.

by: Dave Michaels - thespread.com – Email Us

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