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DET@SEA: Smyly fans five, allows two hits over six

It was at about this time last year when the Tigers started to erase a six-game deficit in the American League Central on their way to a runaway division title.

Coming off a three-game sweep at the hands of the division-leading Indians, the Tigers will send 22-year-old lefty Drew Smyly to the hill as they look to bounce back in Friday's series opener against the last-place Twins. The Tigers will look not only to snap their three-game slide but to avenge a two-game sweep at the hands of the Twins on May 16-17.

The intra-divisional struggles -- Detroit is 8-10 against the AL Central -- may be the most surprising aspect of the team's slow start, considering the fact that Jim Leyland's club went a staggering 50-22 against the division a season ago. No other team in the Central finished above .500 against its rivals.

"We're a much better team than this," Leyland said. "We just [need to] go out and play like it. Or hit like it."

After scoring just six total runs in the three-game series in Cleveland, the Tigers will try to break out the bats against Twins starter Anthony Swarzak at Target Field. Friday's spot start will mark Swarzak's fourth of the season and first since he was relegated to bullpen duty after three rocky outings to begin the season.

Swarzak allowed 11 earned runs over 14 2/3 innings in those three starts, the last of which came on April 19. In nine relief appearances since, he has conceded six runs in 17 2/3 innings.

"We haven't extended him out that much, but he's thrown a lot of baseball," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I won't put a pitch count on it, we'll just go inning by inning. I think if we can get five innings out of him, we'll just go inning by inning after that and see what happens."

Tigers: Smyly trying to bounce back
After six consecutive impressive outings to start his career, Smyly will be looking to get back on track after hitting a few rough patches.

The southpaw has allowed eight runs over 9 2/3 innings over his last two starts after giving up just six combined runs over 34 frames in his first six. He's also served up four long balls in the last two games after allowing just three up to that point.

Twins: Cleaning up the defense
One area the Twins have seemingly improved since last season is team defense. After finishing 2011 with the third-most errors in the Majors, the Twins have made the fifth fewest entering Thursday night's series finale against the White Sox.

"I think we have some athletic people out there that are catching the ball a lot better, and getting to the ones we're supposed to," Gardenhire said. "The pitcher walks a guy or the first guy gets a hit, you get a ground ball, we catch it and we turn two, and get the boys back in the dugout. That's what he game's all about, pitching and defense."

Worth noting
• Miguel Cabrera is 3-for-7 with a homer and five RBIs in his career against Swarzak.

• Detroit had won 18 of the last 22 meetings dating back to 2010 prior to the two-game sweep from May 16-17. Comments