The Tigers have a six-game lead over the Indians in the American League Central, but that doesn't mean that manager Jim Leyland is taking any chances in his club's second game against the Mariners, who sit 18 games below .500.
"They got some juice in there with [Kendrys] Morales, [Justin] Smoak and [Raul] Ibanez, evidently," Leyland said. "They're playing some young kids that are very talented and typical young players. One day they play like world beaters, the next day they don't, hopefully they won't against us."
That inconsistency aptly describes the play of starting pitcher Brandon Maurer, who the Mariners will send to the mound for Tuesday's game. The 23-year-old is 2-8 with a 7.39 ERA in 11 starts and 2-0 with a 6.64 ERA in eight relief appearances.
Maurer pitched a 1-2-3 first inning Wednesday against the Astros, but he then got in trouble and couldn't turn things back around. Manager Eric Wedge said the youngster needs to learn to work his way out of trouble.
"I think the biggest thing is, when he's going good, he's going good," Wedge said. "But if there's a bump in the road or something doesn't go his way, that's when he has to sustain the level of concentration and positive attitude he has to have to work through that. He needs to slow things down and kind of baby step through it.
"Then you control damage and get through that inning and get to the next one without having them put up a big crooked number or anything like that. It's just something where you work through it and get back out there. But that's just part of his maturation."
Maurer will likely need to keep the potent Detroit offense down for the Mariners to keep it close, as the Tigers will start Anibal Sanchez, the AL leader in ERA. Sanchez has won his last seven starts, and is riding a 13 2/3 innings scoreless streak.
Sanchez is looking forward to getting back to the playoffs. "It's exciting, because we've been in first place all season long," said Sanchez. "We need to continue playing like that, just try to clinch really early. We need to continue to play hard. We need to finish strong."
However, Sanchez isn't looking too far ahead.
"I don't think too much about what's going to happen in October," he said. "I think more about what's going to happen in five days. I need to keep working. I don't think too much about what's going to happen later. I need to prepare outing by outing."
Mariners: Felix won't face Tigers
Before Monday's game, Leyland spoke of the danger of facing Seattle when one of the Mariners' two All-Star starting pitchers was on the mound.
"When they pitch Felix [Hernandez] and those kind of guys, they're as good as anybody," said Leyland.
The Tigers skipper won't have to worry about facing Hernandez, as the 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner won't pitch until this weekend in Anaheim at the earliest. Hernandez threw a bullpen session before Monday's game after straining an oblique during a Sept. 2 game against the Royals.
"Because he hadn't been on the mound is such a long time, he felt a little erratic," pitching coach Carl Willis said. "As far as going out and competing, one more bullpen [session] will allow him to tighten things up a little bit. On the physical side, he didn't have any issues today."
The Tigers will still face Hisashi Iwakuma on Wednesday, however. The first-time All Star threw seven scoreless innings in his last start against the NL-leading Cardinals, but he took a no-decision thanks to a lack of run support.
Tigers: Tuiasosopo looks to turn things around against his former team
Matt Tuiasosopo has struggled in the season's second half, batting just .190 with one home run since the All-Star break. Entering the break, the outfielder had been on fire, hitting .329 with six home runs.
The native of Woodinville, Wash., hopes to regain his former form against the team that drafted him, the Mariners, for whom he played from 2008-10 before resurfacing from the Minors with Detroit this year.
"I was just worried about, one, getting a good pitch, and two, putting a good swing on it, those two things," Tuiasosopo said. "It kind of went into, 'I'm going to change my approach to whatever this pitcher I think he's going to do, I'm going to do this on him.' I went got away from that process and that approach."
• Seattle shortstop Brad Miller remains sidelined with a sore left hamstring. The rookie has now missed two games with the injury, which he suffered legging out a bunt in Saturday's game against the Cardinals.
"It felt like a big cramp when I was running down to first," Miller said. "Obviously I felt it pretty good. I knew I probably wouldn't be able to keep playing. It's still sore obviously, but it's feeling better each day. So hopefully as soon as I can, I'll get back out there quick."
•Jhonny Peralta will report to the instructional league on Wednesday, and with the Tigers needing a reliable right-handed bat that can play left field to face left-handed pitching, the shortstop has been working at the position with outfield coach Tom Brookens for nearly a week.
In the instructional league, Peralta will be facing Class A level pitchers that are experimenting with new pitches or extending their seasons to gain more seasoning.
"It's going to be a world of difference," Leyland said. "Instructional league, normally you're going to see a bunch of top-notch young prospects that throw hard, wild."
Jacob Thorpe is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.