For a team with seemingly nothing to play for, the Detroit Tigers can accomplish quite a bit with a victory Thursday.
They can extend their winning streak to six games, they have a chance to sweep a three-game home set against the Kansas City Royals, and they would secure a 10-9 victory in the season series.
Detroit (62-92) can also ensure that it won't lose 100 games and at the same time -- at least temporarily -- get out of last place in the American League Central by passing the Royals (63-92).
"It was definitely frustrating at first," catcher Eric Haase said of earlier in the season during a postgame television interview. "We felt like we could have played this baseball all year. We just didn't, so it's nice to kind of finish on a strong note."
The Tigers had to improvise to piece together a 2-1 win on Wednesday. Scheduled starter Matt Manning felt arm fatigue during warmups and was a very late scratch. Will Vest pitched the first inning and a parade of six relievers followed.
Miguel Cabrera provided the runs with a first-inning homer, his first since July 25.
"It's obviously nice to respond after (losing Manning)," Detroit manager A.J. Hinch said. "Our guys have had a really good vibe about things."
Kansas City's starter in the series finale, Jonathan Heasley, has delivered two consecutive sharp outings. He held the Boston Red Sox scoreless for 6 2/3 innings on Sept. 16, then limited Minnesota to one run and two hits in six innings last Thursday.
Heasley (4-8, 4.87 ERA) tweaked his delivery and that has paid dividends for the rookie right-hander.
"I feel like I'm getting more comfortable in it, and it's kind of allowing me to let myself go and get after it a little more," Heasley said. "I feel like I can kind of let it go now, instead of trying to think about it and trying to hold back just a little bit to make sure it's perfect. I think the last couple starts, being able to see the results when I do it right is pretty affirming."
Royals manager Mike Matheny has been impressed by Heasley's strong finish.
"I thought overall, he just built off of what he did last time," Matheny said. "Curveball continues to be really good. The changeup was good. He threw some really sharp, high-riding fastballs. ... I do believe that there's something that he has found, as they've worked at finding that foundation, that has allowed him to get through his pitches."
Heasley has been roughed up by the Tigers this season, though. Detroit has scored nine runs off him in 11 innings.
He'll be opposed by Eduardo Rodriguez (4-5, 4.37), who picked up his fourth win of the season on Friday. He gave up three runs in six innings against the Chicago White Sox, his second straight quality start.
"If I'm locating my fastball early and I am getting quick outs like that without using my secondary pitches -- that was my plan (Friday) and it worked out pretty good," Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez will be facing the Royals for the first time this season, but he's started seven times against them in his career, going 2-1 with a 5.20 ERA.
--Field Level Media