Cole Hamels and Mike Fiers could soon find themselves in a pennant race. Both veterans can increase their chances of joining a championship contender with solid starts on Saturday afternoon.
Both teams are floundering, but contenders seeking veteran help could turn to Hamels or Fiers.
Hamels, a 34-year-old Texas left-hander, knows about the trade rumors but is more concerned with improving upon his recent outings.
"It's not a big deal," he told MLB.com after his last start. "It's out of my control. I have to go and pitch, and hopefully that'll be the last time I have to answer that question."
Hamels had stellar road outings against the Los Angeles Dodgers and Kansas City in mid-June, but he lasted just five innings in each of his last two starts. He gave up a season-high seven runs and nine hits to the Chicago White Sox on Sunday.
Hamels (4-7, 4.05 ERA) is 4-2 with a 3.69 ERA in six career starts against the Tigers.
Fiers has been at the top of his game in his last two starts. He held Oakland to one run and five hits in seven innings, then worked a season-high eight innings on Monday in Toronto. The Blue Jays managed just one run and three hits, but he wound up with no-decision when the bullpen couldn't hold a one-run lead in the ninth inning.
Fiers (5-5, 3.79) has kept opponents off-balance by mixing well-located fastballs with a healthy dose of curveballs and changeups.
"He was changing speeds, locating the ball," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said afterward. "He paints the strike zone. When the catcher sets up away and in front, he throws away and in front."
Fiers issued 62 walks in 29 outings last season with Houston and was left off the playoff roster. He has shown much better control this year, issuing 20 free passes in 16 starts.
"Just throwing a lot of strikes, changing speeds," Fiers told the Detroit News. "I'm just glad I got the opportunity here."
Texas has solved Fiers in the past. He's 1-3 wth an 8.10 ERA in seven career appearances against the Rangers.
Texas didn't have any luck on Friday night against Detroit pitcher Jordan Zimmermann after Shin-Soo Choo smacked a leadoff homer. Zimmermann struck out a season-high 11 batters in the Tigers' 3-1 victory.
Zimmermann pitched eight innings, allowing Gardenhire to go straight to fill-in closer Joe Jimenez. Detroit's regular closer, Shane Greene, is on the disabled list.
"Best thing we're all seeing is we're pounding the strike zone right now," Gardenhire said. "Pitchers are getting deeper into games. That's really going to help our baseball team."
Choo's on-base streak increased to 45 games with the homer, his 17th this season. His bat hasn't cooled off despite a nagging right quad injury. Choo is batting .291 with a .401 on-base percentage.
The Rangers had scored five or more runs in eight of their previous 12 games.