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Detroit News predictions: Tigers' second half

The Detroit News
The Tigers will need a big lift from left-hander Daniel Norris to have hopes for a postseason appearance.

Chris McCosky, Lynn Henning, Tony Paul, Bob Wojnowski and John Niyo predict how the Tigers will fare in the second half.

Lynn Henning: At the start of the season, the thought was they were an 87-victory team. I have seen nothing to change early perceptions, all because the pitching isn’t steady enough to support grander thoughts. I still see them as a third-place team, a few games out of wild-card territory. 87-75 (no playoffs)

Chris McCosky: It’s hard to imagine the Indians falling off their perch, so the Tigers winning the division seems a reach. But claiming a wild card isn’t. Eighty-eight victories has gotten teams a wild card the last two seasons. The Tigers would need to go 42-31 to reach 88 wins. With J.D. Martinez coming back at the end of the month and the optimistic prognoses on the health of Jordan Zimmermann and Daniel Norris, it’s doable. 88-74 (wild card)

John Niyo: My preseason prediction still holds because while one of my major concerns — the health of Victor Martinez — hasn’t been an issue, the other — Anibal Sanchez — has been. And unless Daniel Norris is able to provide a big lift, I don’t think the pitching is there to rise above the rest in the wild-card race. 84-78 (no playoffs)

Tony Paul: The Indians seem like the easy bet, but let’s see if that young, talented rotation can hold up in August and September as their innings add up to previously untouched levels. The Tigers holes aren’t as plentiful as one might think, assuming J.D. Martinez and Daniel Norris can get healthy. If the latter happens sooner rather than later, GM Al Avila can pick up one No. 4 or No. 5 starter at the deadline, and that might be enough. I said Detroit would win 94 games before the season; I’ll go with 88 now, enough to win the Central by a game. 88-74 (playoffs)

Bob Wojnowski; The Tigers will hang around, but they need several players to get hot — Jordan Zimmermann? Miguel Cabrera? Justin Verlander? — to claw into the playoffs. And yes, to have a legitimate shot, they need pitching help at the trade deadline. I think they’ll give it a go and keep it interesting, but fall short. 85-77 (no playoffs)

ON DECK: ROYALS

Series: Three games, Friday-Sunday, Comerica Park, Detroit

First pitch: 7:10 Friday-Saturday, 1:10 p.m. Sunday

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Probables: Friday — RHP Ian Kennedy (6-7, 3.97 ERA) vs. RHP Justin Verlander (8-6, 4.07). Saturday — LHP Danny Duffy (4-1, 3.09) vs. RHP Mike Pelfrey (2-8, 4.58). Sunday — RHP Yordano Ventura (6-7, 5.15) vs. RHP Michael Fulmer (9-2, 2.11)

Kennedy: After three rocky starts in June, he got himself back on track. In his last three starts before the break, he limited opponents to a .197 batting average. When the Tigers beat him in April, he threw his 93 mph fastball 70 percent of the time. Opponents are hitting .202 off that fastball. He’s mixing in more change-ups of late, with good success.

Verlander: He’s still got the old JV bulldog in him. His clutch stats are off the charts. Opponents are hitting .086 against him with two outs and runners in scoring position, .184 in games that are close late and .196 when he’s got the lead. He’s given the Tigers at least seven innings in nine of his last 12 starts, posting a 6-3 record with a 3.06 ERA during that stretch.