Against the Angels' righty-centric lineup Saturday, one can expect a healthy dose of sliders and changeups from Tigers starter Max Scherzer.
The right-hander said Wednesday that using a combination of offspeed pitches should allow him to be effective against an Angels order that features two sluggers from the right side of the plate in Albert Pujols and Mike Trout.
He'll shy away from his curveball, saying he'll use the pitch "sparingly" in the middle game of the three-game set. Scherzer is yet to record a win this season despite an ERA of just 2.70.
With the innings that the bullpen has been forced to eat lately, the Tigers find themselves in desperate need of a lengthy outing from Scherzer. In the past two games, including the Angels' series-opening win, Detroit relievers have been called upon to pitch 10 innings.
Meanwhile, Angels catcher Chris Iannetta said Friday that he feels his team is in a far better position than at this time last season and not just because of an 8-8 start. The Angels were 6-10 through 16 games last year.
"We've lost some tough games," Iannetta said. "We could be a little bit better right now. We're still in a good spot. As long as you stay around .500, a little above .500, and you get hot at the right time, all of a sudden you're 10, 12, 15 games above."
If the Angels are to cross over .500 for the first time this season on Saturday, it'll be behind lefty starter C.J. Wilson, who has struck out 16 over his last two outings. Wilson has benefited from generous run support provided by the Angels, who exploded for 11 more runs Friday.
Iannetta said this year's team has plenty of clubhouse chemistry, which can equate to on-field success "even if you don't have a whole bunch of talent." But Scherzer has known for a long time that the Angels have had at least one guy who can make him pay even on a solid pitch. Scherzer tried to emulate Pujols as a right-handed hitter himself in high school, before focusing on pitching.
What stands out the most to Scherzer when he watches Pujols at the plate?
"Just absolute plate coverage," Scherzer said. "Being able to do anything and everything with any every single pitch. Going the other way, pulling it, hitting everywhere for power. He can do everything. I've had to face him a few times, he's gotten me a few times, you just remember that and keep trying to get better, keep going at him."
Angels: Boesch back in Detroit after getting called up
Angels outfielder Brennan Boesch was a big part of the Tigers from 2010-12, playing in a combined 380 games while posting a .259/.315/.414 slash line. Then came the spring of 2013, when Boesch dealt with an oblique strain, couldn't win a starting outfield job and was released with less than three weeks left before Opening Day.
"I don't really reflect too much on it, other than Detroit was pushing for a championship, like everyone else, and I think injuries played a big role," Boesch said.
"The Tigers have always had a ton of talent, and if you can't stay on the field, there was guys that were plenty good enough to play, and it just kind of happened that way. No regrets. I wish I could've been more healthy coming into that year, potentially, but I'm just happy with where I'm at physically now."
Boesch, called up on Wednesday when Kole Calhoun's sprained right ankle landed him on the disabled list, was out of the starting lineup for the Angels' first game in Detroit, but went 0-for-1 as a late-game substitution. The left-handed-hitting right fielder, basically in a platoon with the right-handed-hitting Collin Cowgill, figures to start on Saturday and Sunday, with righties Scherzer and Rick Porcello on the mound.
Tigers: Ausmus recalls Pujols' 2005 NLCS home run
In Game 5 of the 2005 National League Championship Series, with Tigers manager Brad Ausmus' Astros on the cusp of their first World Series berth in franchise history, Pujols came to the plate in the top of the ninth with two men on for St. Louis.
Then-closer Brad Lidge, Ausmus' batterymate, had struck out the first two batters of the inning. After a single and a walk, Pujols came to the plate, and then-manager Phil Garner came out to the mound to discuss how to approach the at-bat.
"He said, 'We don't have to give him anything to hit,'" Ausmus recalled Friday. "'If we walk him, we walk him. We'll go after the next guy.'"
The first pitch went according to plan. Lidge got Pujols to swing and miss on a low slider. Ausmus called for another slider and set up in the same spot, but Lidge missed the location and hung it. Pujols crushed a towering shot to left.
"I went from having to yell over the umpire to being able to hear the people in the center-field restaurant talking," Ausmus said of the night the Cardinals to cut the series lead to 3-2, though Houston would take Game 6 to advance to the World Series.
• The Angels have won 10 straight over the Tigers, the longest active streak by one team over another in baseball.
• Los Angeles leads the Majors with 27 home runs. The Angels hit 24 last April.
• Detroit second baseman Ian Kinsler has hit safely in seven of his last eight games. His eight multi-hit games through the season's first 13 games tie for the fourth most in franchise history dating back to 1914.
Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.