With one starter on the disabled list and another hoping to avoid it, the Detroit Tigers could use some additional strong outings from Max Scherzer now more than ever.
Scherzer tries to take over the AL wins lead Thursday while Francisco Liriano looks to continue his string of solid performances for the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates.
Detroit (64-54) had an enviable rotation after acquiring 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner David Price from Tampa Bay, giving the Tigers the last three recipients on their staff.
But Justin Verlander was forced to leave Monday's 11-6 loss to Pittsburgh with inflammation in his right shoulder. The Tigers, who already have Anibal Sanchez (pectoral) on the disabled list, likely won't let Verlander pitch until Aug. 23 in Minnesota.
Those absences likely place a little more burden on Scherzer (13-4, 3.13 ERA) for at least the near future. The right-hander is 5-1 with a 2.01 ERA in his last nine starts, but the Tigers couldn't take advantage of a standout performance Saturday in Toronto.
Scherzer yielded one run and fanned 11 in eight innings, but Joe Nathan gave up the tying run in the ninth in a 3-2 loss in 10 innings.
Scherzer will try to become the AL's first 14-game winner in his first start against Pittsburgh (64-56) since June 23, 2012. He last faced the Pirates at Comerica Park a month before that, striking out a career-high 15 over seven innings in a 4-3 win.
Liriano (3-8, 3.82) is 0-1 with a 10.38 ERA in two interleague outings this season after going 3-1 with a 2.19 ERA in 2013. He suffered his lone interleague loss last season in Detroit on May 27, giving up four runs in five innings of a 6-5 defeat.
After a rocky, injury-plagued first half in 2014, Liriano is 2-1 with a 1.69 ERA in five outings since the All-Star break.
The left-hander, though, has received a combined two runs of support in his last two games. He took a 2-1 loss to San Diego on Saturday despite yielding two runs, three hits and one walk in seven innings.
"He's finding his rhythm, he's got confidence out there, repeating the delivery. His fastball command really is again getting back to what it was last year," manager Clint Hurdle told MLB's official website.
Liriano will attempt to get the Pirates deeper in the game than their recent starters have. Following a stretch of five straight seven-inning starts, three of Pittsburgh's last four have failed to get through six after Vance Worley struggled Wednesday.
Down 4-1, Detroit scored three in the fifth, one in the sixth and three more in the seventh to snap its four-game skid with an 8-4 win.
Victor Martinez went 3 for 4 with three RBIs and Nick Castellanos tripled and homered in Detroit's fourth consecutive home win - one shy of a season high. Detroit stayed a half-game behind Kansas City in the AL Central while Pittsburgh remained 1 1/2 behind Milwaukee in the NL Central thanks to the Brewers' 4-2 loss at Wrigley Field.
"It's not fair when people out there are thinking that we've got to win this division by 10, 15, 20 games," Martinez said. "We're not playing Little League teams. We're trying. It's too long of a season. At some point you're going to struggle. Every team struggles at some point."
Martinez, batting .364 in his last 11 games, is 13 for 27 with six doubles and a home run in his career against Liriano.