The Ambassador Bridge connects Detroit to Canada. This week, Detroit becomes to bridge that the Chicago Cubs must pass through between important division games.
The Cubs split six games against National League Central opponents Milwaukee and Pittsburgh last week. They’ll make a two-game pit stop in Detroit this week before returning home for four games against last-place Cincinnati.
While trying to hold off Milwaukee and surging St. Louis, first-place Chicago hopes to regains its offensive punch against the pitching-deficient Tigers. The Cubs have scored a single run in each of their last four games and were fortunate to win two of them.
“We have to get our offense straightened out,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon told mlb.com. “I can’t make any excuses for them either. We just have to get better. But we did pitch. We played great defense. We did a lot of really good things. We just didn’t hit the baseball.”
Chicago’s only runs in the four-game series against the Pirates came on solo homers. It went hitless in 17 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
“You can’t be panicked by the fact that we just had four games where we just scored one run,” outfielder Kyle Schwarber said to mlb.com. “All teams probably go through the stretch. … We’re ready to have this off-day, get refocused and get ready for this next series.”
Facing the battered Tigers’ staff could be just what the Cubs need to get their bats going. Detroit’s starting rotation has been decimated by injuries and trades. Michael Fulmer and Blaine Hardy are on the disabled list and Mike Fiers was recently traded to Oakland.
Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire was forced to try a “bullpen day” on Sunday, with long reliever Buck Farmer making his first start this year. Detroit lost 5-4 to Minnesota.
The Twins blasted 13 homers in the four-game series. The Tigers scored at least four runs in each game of the series but only won one.
“We have to make better pitches to not give up that many home runs. But also need to cash in better when we get runners on base,” Tigers catcher James McCann told the Detroit News.
Jordan Zimmermann (5-5, 4.36 ERA) will start for the Tigers on Tuesday. The Cubs will counter with Kyle Hendricks (9-9, 4.11).
Zimmermann got roughed up in his last start, surrendering six runs and nine hits in five innings to the Chicago White Sox. He has endured similar experiences against the Cubs, mainly during his years with Washington. Zimmermann has a 1-5 record and 4.58 ERA in nine starts against them.
Hendricks has only faced the Tigers once, allowing three runs and seven hits in five innings on July 3 while getting a no-decision. The Cubs took both games of that two-game series.
Hendricks has three wins and a no-decision in his last four starts. He notched a victory on Wednesday despite giving up four runs in six innings to the Brewers.
Pinpoint control has allowed Hendricks to bounce back from a shaky beginning to the season. The Cubs have won seven of his last nine starts and he has walked just seven batters in those outings while getting 53 strikeouts.