Tigers-Blue Jays Preview
By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO
(AP) -- The Detroit Tigers are trying to carry their home success to the road, and giving the ball to Rick Porcello could be a good way to do it.
Carlos Villanueva might not make things easy on them.
Porcello looks to match his longest road winning streak Friday night when he starts opposite Villanueva in the opener of a three-game series with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Detroit (53-46) has won 14 of 18 but has split six road games during that stretch. The Tigers opened a nine-game road trip by dropping two of three at Cleveland, capping the series with Thursday's 5-3 defeat.
They fell a half-game behind Chicago for the AL Central lead.
Detroit is expected to turn to Porcello (7-5, 4.40 ERA) in an attempt to regain first place, and he's won three road starts in a row behind a 2.50 ERA.
The right-hander won a career-high four straight road games as a rookie from May 10-June 18, 2009.
The Tigers have won each of the last five games Porcello has started - he's 3-0 during that stretch - and he turned in a dazzling performance in Saturday's 7-1 victory over the White Sox. He yielded one run and five hits with no walks over eight-plus innings while outpitching All-Star Chris Sale and falling just short of his first complete game.
"Personally, you want to go the distance; that's a big thing for a pitcher, and that's a hard thing to do," Porcello told the team's official website. "To be able to throw a complete game would be nice, but we got the win and I'm pretty happy about that, too."
He's 2-2 with a 3.75 ERA in four starts against the Blue Jays (49-49) but hasn't faced them since 2010.
Similar to Porcello, Villanueva (5-0, 2.86) being on the mound has meant wins for his team.
Toronto has won all four games he's started since inserting the right-hander into the rotation due to a slew of injuries. The veteran reliever has gone 3-0 with a 2.31 ERA in that span.
Villanueva came up big again Saturday, allowing three runs in the second inning before shutting down Boston for the next 4 1-3 frames as Toronto rallied for a 7-3 victory.
"It was kind of a test, keeping the game within reach and letting our guys come back and score that one run," Villanueva told the team's official website. "The fact that I was able to keep the game close and come back is what really matters."
He has no record and a 2.60 ERA in four games versus the Tigers, and his only start against them came with the Brewers in 2007.
Villanueva will try to get the Blue Jays back above .500 after they beat Oakland 10-4 on Thursday following defeats in the first two of that series.
Edwin Encarnacion is looking to continue his surge, trying to pick up the slack after Jose Bautista (wrist) landed on the disabled list last week.
Encarnacion is hitting .353 with four homers and 12 RBIs in the past 11 games after connecting for a three-run shot Thursday. He's reached 70 RBIs for the first time since getting a career-high 76 with Cincinnati in 2007, and his 27 homers match Bautista for the team lead.
Detroit's Miguel Cabrera isn't far behind with 24, while his 82 RBIs are the most in the majors. He went 0 for 4 on Thursday after hitting .362 with six homers in his first 12 games after the All-Star break.
He was 1 for 14 in the Tigers' most recent series in Toronto from May 6-9, 2011, but Detroit won three of four.
Updated July 27, 2012