The Detroit Tigers will be playing some extremely familiar opponents right up to the All-Star break.
Their next 19 games are against fellow American League Central teams, beginning with a three-game weekend series against the visiting Kansas City Royals. The opener on Friday kicks off a seven-game homestand, which will be followed by a 12-game road trip leading up to the break.
The Tigers are coming off a 3-5 road trip, capped by a 3-2 victory at San Francisco on Wednesday.
There were two notable developments on the road swing -- rookie Riley Greene firmly established himself as the team's everyday center fielder and top free-agent acquisition Javier Baez showed signs of breaking out of his season-long slump.
Greene, 21, has made several highlight-reel catches since his debut on June 18. He also displayed an unusually keen eye at the plate, batting .286 (10-for-35) with a .419 on-base percentage, thanks to eight walks compared to six strikeouts.
"I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing and sticking to my game plan," Greene said. "I've been swinging the bat, having good ABs, trying not to swing at one bad pitch and get out. I'm trying to have good ABs, make pitchers work and whatever happens, happens."
Greene has only one extra-base hit and one stolen base, but power and speed will become part of the package.
"The most impressive thing to me is his ability to stay in at-bats," outfielder Robbie Grossman said, according to the Detroit Free Press. "It just shows you what kind of hitter he is, and how mature of a hitter he is. Guys come up when they're 26 and struggle. It's not even about results at this point. Results would be nice. But the quality of an at-bat every time has been outstanding."
Baez hasn't had enough of those, but he's coming around with a hit in 11 of his last 12 games. He was batting .194 when the Tigers left town and has his average up to .222. He had seven extra-base hits during those eight games.
The Royals snapped a four-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory over Texas on Wednesday. Veteran Zack Greinke delivered his second straight quality outing and manager Mike Matheny hopes the younger pitchers are learning lessons.
"(Wednesday) was such a great example of the things that have been hurting almost every single one of our young guys," Matheny said. "'How do I stop the bleeding? Tell me about the mindset.' We need to always make sure that they're going there and having that conversation."
Kansas City rookie first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino, who made his debut on Tuesday, still is seeking his first hit. He drew two walks on Wednesday. The Royals created a spot for him by trading Carlos Santana to the Seattle Mariners.
"I want to start putting some wins on the scoreboard and helping this team do whatever we can to score more runs than the other team," Pasquantino said.
The Tigers have yet to list a starting pitcher for Friday's game.
Kansas City will go with Brad Keller (2-9, 4.56 ERA), who gave up five runs (four earned) and eight hits in 3 2/3 innings to Oakland in his last outing on Saturday. Keller is 4-5 with a 3.49 ERA in 13 career outings (nine starts) against Detroit.
--Field Level Media