(SportsNetwork.com) - A clash between division leaders gets underway Monday night between the Oakland Athletics and Detroit Tigers.
This series between the AL West and AL Central leaders will last three games at Comerica Park and the Athletics are searching for a fifth straight win on their current road trip.
After heading east and splitting a two-game series with the New York Mets, Oakland recorded a three-game sweep of the Miami Marlins with Sunday's 4-3 decision and posted all four runs in the sixth inning. Nate Freiman hit a three-run homer and Josh Donaldson posted an RBI single during the decisive frame, and starting pitcher Tommy Milone worked seven effective innings.
Milone allowed three runs, two of which were earned and one on a Marcell Ozuna home run, while striking out three batters and walking two.
Freiman's home run helped Milone capture his sixth win (6-3). Freiman was called up from Triple-A after Josh Reddick landed back on the disabled list with a knee.
"Certainly a big home run from the new kid," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Freiman. "He's had a full year in the majors, he's not intimated by it. He gets called up and on his first day, has the biggest hit of the game."
Oakland was also without Derek Norris (back). Yoenis Cespedes extended his hitting streak to 13 games by going 1-for-4 with a run scored.
The A's lead the AL West by 5 1/2 games ahead of the LA Angels and have won nine of their last 11 games, including four straight on the road. They are 27-15 outside the Coliseum this season and a season-high 21 games over .500.
Oakland has gone 17-8 in June.
The A's hope Scott Kazmir can bounce back from a rare shaky start when he pitches Monday. Kazmir had his worst outing of the season in last Tuesday's 10-1 loss at the New York Mets and he allowed seven runs and eight hits in three innings.
Kazmir was 4-0 with a 1.27 earned run average in his previous five starts and dropped to 9-3 with a 2.66 ERA overall. His ERA over the first 15 starts was 2.08 and Oakland is 13-3 in his 16 trips to the hill this season.
The veteran left-hander went the distance in a 3-1 win over Anibal Sanchez and Detroit on May 28, as he allowed one run and scattered six hits with eight K's and no walks. Kazmir, who is 4-2 in nine road assignments, has a 5-5 mark to go along with a 3.64 ERA in 14 career starts against the Tigers.
Detroit is back home for nine games versus Oakland, Tampa Bay and Los Angeles, and lost two of three games against the Houston Astros this weekend to close out an otherwise successful nine-game road trip (7-2).
Drew Smyly had a rough go of it on the mound and lasted 2 1/3 innings, giving up four runs and eight hits to fall to 4-7. Tigers starters had posted a quality outing in nine of the previous 10 games.
"I was sick yesterday, I'm not going to use that as an excuse," Smyly said. "They came out swinging. I didn't bring it; they did."
Alex Avila homered, Nick Castellanos ended with two hits and two RBI and slugger Miguel Cabrera ended 0-for-4.
The Tigers had their lead atop the AL Central trimmed to 3 1/2 games over the Kansas City Royals, who won two of three meetings with the LA Angels this past weekend.
Sanchez draws the start for the Tigers Monday and he has won three straight outings and five decisions in a row. His previous loss was April 21 against the Chicago White Sox. Sanchez squeezed by Texas in last Wednesday's 8-6 win and allowed four runs in 5 1/3 innings. He permitted four runs in his previous two starts and six in the past three.
Sanchez is 5-2 with a 2.64 ERA this season and 3-2 in eight home starts. The right-hander has faced Oakland four times in his career, going 1-1 with a 3.81 ERA. He did not figure into the decision of a 3-1 loss at Oakland on May 28, when he tossed 8 1/3 innings of one-run ball with nine K's and one walk.
Detroit and Oakland split a four-game series by the bay from May 26-29.