Dodgers strive to stay hot in series vs. Tigers

DETROIT -- It's a homecoming of sorts for manager Dave Roberts when his sky-flying Los Angeles Dodgers visit the Detroit Tigers for a weekend inter-league series beginning Friday night.

Roberts was selected by the Tigers out of UCLA in the 28th round of the 1994 amateur draft.

He moved slowly but steadily through the Detroit organization but an indication the Tigers didn't have him at the top of their prospect list might have come in 1996.

After hitting .303 for Lakeland of the Florida State League in 1995, Detroit assigned Roberts to the Visalia Oaks of the California League, a co-op team at the time, for the 1996 season.

Detroit traded Roberts to the Cleveland Indians in 1998 along with right-hander Tim Worrell for utility player Geronimo Berroa without him ever playing in a major league game for them.

But the Tigers started Roberts on a path that has taken him to being the manager of the team with the best record in baseball.

Los Angeles is 85-34 and hasn't lost a series since June 5-7 after Yasiel Puig hit a game-winning single in the ninth inning of Wednesday's 5-4 win over the Chicago White Sox.

The Dodgers have won 50 of their last 59 games despite not having ace Clayton Kershaw, best known in Detroit as being the guy who threw to catcher Matthew Stafford, current quarterback for the Detroit Lions.

"When you look at what we've done, certainly every time (opposing teams) see us on the schedule they're going to bring their best," Roberts said. "Absolutely I think that our guys have set the bar for the league, and rightfully so."

The Dodgers will have lefty Rich Hill (8-4, 3.44 ERA) pitching for them. The University of Michigan product, 37, will be pitching on the Tigers' University of Michigan fan night.

Hill has only started twice against Detroit in 17 career appearances but is 2-0 with a 3.42 ERA against them. He did strike out eight while pitching seven scoreless inning against Detroit for Oakland last year.

"It's been an unbelievable year for them," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said of the Dodgers. "I don't know if I was ever around a team that was that hot for that long. It seems like they're getting it from a bunch of different places, too. They've lost their best pitcher, and they continue to do it."

Detroit will have Jordan Zimmermann, Michael Fulmer and Justin Verlander working the series.

Zimmermann (7-9, 5.62 ERA) has had an off-on year for Detroit, mostly off. Zimmermann, 31, hasn't faced the Dodgers as a member of the Tigers but with Washington he made eight starts against Los Angeles and was 2-2 with a 4.40 ERA.

Detroit brings a 53-67 record into the game and its staff ERA of 5.08 is second-worst in the majors after 28 runs in a three-game sweep by the Texas Rangers. Zimmermann is one of three Tiger starters who have a propensity for serving up home runs. Fulmer has, too, in recent outings and Verlander was dusted for three dingers in his start.

The Dodgers expect to activate first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (herniated disc) for the series, in which Roberts will have use of a designated hitter in each game.

Roberts thus won't have to move first baseman Cody Bellinger back to the outfield until next week. Gonzalez didn't burn it up on his rehab assignment, going 5-for-26 with a home run in eight games.
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