The American League Central-leading Tigers are in danger of enduring a four-game sweep at the hands of the Athletics.
Fortunately for Detroit, the Tigers will call on Max Scherzer to tame Oakland. The right-hander will have his work cut out for him: The A's have scored 28 runs in the first three games of the series as they continue their pursuit of either a Wild Card spot or the AL West crown.
"He's been the guy whenever we've had a couple of bad games with his start coming up, he always gives us a chance," catcher Alex Avila said. "We haven't played well in any aspect of the game this series, but getting a good outing from him would be a start."
Scherzer could be the favorite -- to this point -- to win the AL Cy Young Award. He is seeking his league-leading 20th victory of the season, which would make him the first hurler to start a campaign 20-1 since Roger Clemens in 2001.
The 29-year-old is 6-0 with a 1.48 ERA in seven outings since he suffered his lone loss of the season. In that stretch, opposing hitters are batting .144 off of him. Still, Scherzer has gone out of his way to make his won-loss record out to be a team accomplishment, not an individual one.
"That's really how I look at it," Scherzer said. "I'm not putting on a face. I'm telling you exactly how I feel about it. I feel, the way it's gone, this is much more a team stat than it has been my personal stat.
"I've got the best offense in the game backing me up and I've gone out there and pitched well, and those guys have responded equally by being consistent, getting big hits and playing good defense behind me. This has been a team effort, not just solely on me."
Scherzer started last month's Midsummer Classic for the AL. On Thursday, he'll be opposed by a fellow member of the AL All-Star squad.
Bartolo Colon was activated from the 15-day disabled list and will toe the rubber for Oakland. The 40-year-old has compiled a 14-5 record and 2.97 ERA in 24 starts.
"He pitched in the All-Star Game, he's got 14 wins, he was one of the best pitchers in baseball in the first half of the season, so it stung us a bit when we did lose him to the DL, and we're excited about getting him back," said A's manager Bob Melvin. "Any time you have that kind of quality coming back, it feels like you've made an acquisition."
A's: Colon solidifies rotation
Tommy Milone was optioned to Triple-A and Brett Anderson returned to the active roster on Wednesday. Anderson will pitch out of the bullpen. Right-hander Evan Scribner was sent to Sacramento on Thursday, creating space for Colon, and Melvin was excited to have the anchor of his starting rotation back in uniform.
"He's a nice presence for our younger starters," Melvin said. "He certainly isn't the most vocal guy in the entire world, but he most certainly carries that presence and leads by example, and our guys watch him pretty closely."
In the two starts prior to him landing on the DL, Colon allowed 10 runs in 6 2/3 innings. However, he yielded only nine earned runs in his previous 49 1/3 innings.
• Anderson earned his first Major League save on Wednesday when he allowed three runs on five hits over three innings of relief.
Tigers: Scherzer scouting A's
None of Scherzer's 19 wins this season has come against Oakland, though the righty did limit the A's to two runs (one earned) in six innings on April 12. He tallied 11 strikeouts in that outing.
In five career starts against Oakland, Scherzer has posted a 2-1 record and 3.24 ERA.
"You have an idea of who they are," Scherzer said. "I've faced them several times and I know how they've approached me. And that's the biggest thing facing a team like them. But you also take into account what they're looking like right now, what other guys have thrown them and how they're swinging the bat right now. It's an ever-evolving scouting report.
• Tigers starting pitchers have allowed 14 earned runs on 22 hits in 15 innings through the first three games of the series.
• The A's scored 14 runs on Wednesday, the 12th time this season the team has scored 10 or more times in a game.