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07/23/08 8:23 PM ET

Rising Tigers anticipating Central tilt

Detroit (52-49) vs. Chicago (57-43), Friday, 7:05 p.m. ET

Two months ago, no one would've thought th Tigers' upcoming series would mean too much. Now? This three-game set could go a long way in determining Detroit's playoff hopes.

The Tigers open a series against the White Sox on Friday at Comerica Park. In early June, Detroit was 12 games under .500 and 10 out of first place. Now the Tigers are just 5 1/2 back.

This series matters, but manager Jim Leyland was quick to remind that it is just July.

"All I'm hoping for is to somehow be playing for something when September comes along," Leyland said. "If we're doing that, I'll be happy."

Detroit is 4-5 against the White Sox, having swept Chicago at home in June. Those games helped start the current stretch of good play the Tigers are riding.

If they can continue to keep up their play, they'll likely have a chance to catch Chicago and Minnesota and make a run at the playoffs.

"I'll put it simple," Leyland said. "We've got to hit a couple winning streaks and they've got to hit a couple bumps in the road."

Pitching matchup
DET: LHP Nate Robertson (6-8, 5.69 ERA)
Robertson took the mound last Saturday at Baltimore with a six-run lead, but it was gone by the end of the third. So was Robertson, whom the Orioles hit around for seven runs on eight hits -- six of them singles -- over 2 1/3 innings. He has battled high hit totals in four of his last five starts, the exception being nine innings of one-run ball July 6 at Seattle. He's keeping the ball on the ground, but it hasn't resulted in the outs that he needs. Robertson has split his two starts against the White Sox this season, including 6 1/3 innings of three-run ball to beat them on June 10 in Detroit.

CWS: RHP Gavin Floyd (10-6, 3.52 ERA)
Despite a quality start against the Royals, Floyd picked up his second loss in a row Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Field. He gave up three runs in the sixth, but only one was earned. Ross Gload hit a hard grounder toward Joe Crede that bounced off his glove and continued rolling into left field. The error led to John Buck's home run the next at-bat, and the White Sox never recovered. Floyd walked three more batters in the game, too, having now issued at least three free passes in each of his past three starts. Floyd faced Detroit in back-to-back starts to open the season. He gave up a combined three runs in 13 1/3 innings to pick up his first two wins.

Tiger Tales
Leyland said Robertson keeps a consistent tempo on the mound when he's pitching successfully. ... Placido Polanco is in the midst of an eight-game hitting streak. ... Edgar Renteria had two hits for the second straight game on Wednesday. ... Detroit outscored Kansas City, 33-6, in its three-game sweep.

 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• 97.1FM/1270AM

Up next
• Saturday: Tigers (Justin Verlander, 8-9, 3.95) vs. White Sox (John Danks, 7-4, 3.03), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Tigers (Zach Miner, 4-3, 3.73) vs. White Sox (Javier Vazquez, 7-8, 4.57), 1:05 p.m. ET
• Monday: Tigers (Kenny Rogers, 8-6, 4.48) at Indians (Paul Byrd, 4-10, 5.28), 7:05 p.m. ET

Mark Dent is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.