Game #135: Cleveland Indians (56-78) at Detroit Tigers (72-61)
By Mike Brandyberry
A Major League Baseball season can take many twists and turns, no further evidence is needed than the travels of the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers.
Five weeks ago on July 26 the Indians beat the Tigers on a warm Thursday night, scoring four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to come from behind and defeat Justin Verlander, 5-3. The victory had the Tribe within three games of first place and seemingly momentum heading into the trade deadline and the final two months of the season. Since that win, however, the Indians have gone 6-29, didn’t make a trade at the deadline and have only won two games on the road.
Meanwhile, the veteran Tigers struggled much of the first half of the season, but remained calm and competitive. Cleveland was able to take the first five games of the season series, yet have now dropped five of the last seven. They made a proactive trade to acquire Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez from the Miami Marlins in late July, despite probably overpaying with the prospects they surrendered. Meanwhile, since the same game that seemed to send the Indians forward and the Tigers into a spiral, Detroit has gone 19-15 and staying afloat in the race. Last night, the same Verlander, locked up the Chicago White Sox and helped sweep the Pale Hose and tie them for the division lead.
No longer are the Indians division contenders—a team other’s take seriously—but a doormat that contenders feel they must take advantage of to continue in the race.
Detroit sends one of its midseason acquisitions to the mound in Sanchez (7-11, 4.24 ERA). He’s been 2-4, with a 5.29 ERA since the Tigers acquired the right-handed pitcher, but with the Detroit offense he can easily keep them in the game. Sanchez has only allowed three runs over his last two starts, so he appears to be settling in to his role in Tiger Town. One of his two victories in the American League has come against the Indians, allowing only two runs over six innings on August 3 in a 10-2 Tiger win.
Meanwhile, the Indians continue to play out the string of the season, sending Corey Kluber (0-3, 5.16 ERA) to the mound. Indians Manager Manny Acta has been insistent that Kluber has the stuff to retire big league hitters and that the organization wants to see an extended look at him at the big league level, however, he has yet to put together quality starts or do much to impress. The Indians have lost all six of Kluber’s starts including a 8-4 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday. Kluber allowed four runs on eight hits in six innings of work.
What seemed like a turning point for the positive just five weeks ago somehow has become the marking point of when the Indians’ season went south. Certainly the Tribe will not rebound to play a part in the playoff race, but now the final four weeks of the season presents the opportunity to interfere with other franchise’s postseason hopes. How the Tribe responds will likely dictate much of the direction the team takes in the offseason.
The game action begins at 1:05 pm from Comerica Park on a special Labor Day matinee. The television broadcast can be seen on SportsTime Ohio and the radio broadcast on the Indians Radio Network.
Cleveland Indians Starting Lineup
1. Shin-Soo Choo, RF
2. Jason Kipnis, 2B
3. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
4. Michael Brantley, CF
5. Russ Canzler, DH
6. Casey Kotchman, 1B
7. Ezequiel Carrera, LF
8. Jack Hannahan, 3B
9. Lou Marson, C
Detroit Tigers Starting Lineup
1. Quintin Berry, CF
2. Andy Dirks, LF
3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
4. Prince Fielder, 1B
5. Delmon Young, DH
6. Brennan Boesch, RF
7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
8. Alex Avila, C
9. Omar Infante, 2B
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images