Series Preview: Padres vs. Detroit Tigers

History buffs will love this weekend’s series at Petco Park. It’s a rematch of the 1984 World Series, as the Detroit Tigers come to town for the first time since 2008 for a three-game set.

You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone still in the game from that series, which the Tigers won four games to one. Both managers – Dick Williams of the Padres and Sparky Anderson of the Tigers – have moved on to the great ballpark in the sky. Each team has been back to the World Series since (Padres in ’98, Tigers in ’06 and ’12), but neither has won it.

For the Padres, the story remains the same: Somebody’s got to step  up and hit the ball. The team is 28th in the league in batting average (.209) and home runs (four) and 29th in runs scored (a mere 20 in nine games).

That’s not gonna get it done, especially against the Tigers, who have been to the American League Championship Series three straight years. But they are a much different team from years past, having traded away slugger Prince Fielder and picking up speedsters like Ian Kinsler and Rajai Davis. They still have a formidable pitching rotation, which the Padres will see in full force this weekend.

When they play: The series opens Friday night at 7:10 p.m., followed by a Saturday tilt at 5:40 p.m. The finale is Sunday at 1:10 p.m.

What’s at stake: The Padres just want to win a series. They’ve dropped two of three games in each of the first three matchups. This series begins a 10-game homestand where the Friars need to right the ship or risk falling too far behind the division leaders.

The Tigers did their best to help the Friars’ cause, splitting a pair of extra-inning nail biters with Los Angeles this week. They are heavy favorites to win the AL Central Division for the fourth straight year. Their 4-0 start was reminiscent of that ’84 season, when the team started a record 35-5 and ran away with the division. They’ve since lost two of three. But they haven’t lost a series all season, and head back to the Midwest after their set with the Padres for 10 straight home games at Comerica Park.

Who is pitching: The Padres throw their top three starters in the series, with Andrew Cashner (0-1, 2.25 ERA) starting Friday, followed by Ian Kennedy (1-1, 3.27) and Tyson Ross (0-2, 4.35). They’re going to need their A game as they battle a Detroit rotation that many consider the best in the league.

Friday starter Rick Porcello (1-0, 1.35) is probably the worst of the bunch, but has been lights out so far this season. Despite his struggles last year, Justin Verlander (0-1, 2.57) is an absolute horse, having won the Cy Young Award and AL MVP in 2011 and striking out at least 200 in five straight years. He takes the mound on Saturday, followed by 2013 AL Cy Young winner and 20-game winner Max Scherzer (0-0, 1.20).

Who to watch: The bats finally came alive for at least a few Padres while in Cleveland this week. Leadoff hitter Everth Cabrera had six hits and stole his first base in the series. Alexi Amarista is on a four-game hitting streak, raising his average to .333 on the season. Yasmani Grandal had a four-hit game on Monday, and leads the everyday players with a .368 average. … Now, if we could work on that power. Seth Smith hit homers in his first two at-bats with the squad. Since then, the rest of the lineup has a grand total of two long balls. Ouch.

For the Tigers, Torii Hunter is showing some much-needed power with three homers in his last four games. Austin Jackson is settling into his role in the bottom half of the order with 10 hits in seven games, including RBIs in each of the Dodgers games. But the lineup begins and ends with Miguel Cabrera, the MVP and Triple Crown winner from two years ago. He has struggled out of the gate, hitting just .286 with a single home run. Keeping him down will be the key to the series, as it’s only a matter of time before the superstar’s bat heats up.

Why go: Saturday’s game is the next giveaway night, as all fans will receive a Padres long sleeve t-shirt. On Sunday, players will sign autographs as part of Kids Fest. The team will also honor the military, wearing camouflage jerseys. Tickets are still available for all three games.

What’s next: This is the start of a 10-game homestand for the Friars. Up next is the Colorado Rockies for four games, followed by the division-leading San Francisco Giants in town for the weekend.

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