Game Preview: Cleveland (80-79) vs. Detroit (92-67)
By Matt Van Wormer
The Indians closed out the home portion of their 2011 season with a loss to the Minnesota Twins, but even so, with a loss by the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland is guaranteed at least a share of second place in the Central Division. One win in their last three games would guarantee them sole possession of second as well as a .500 season.
Jim Thome, who may have played his last game at Progressive Field, got one last chance to salute the fans when he pinch-hit in the 8th inning and even played at his original position, 3rd base, for a pitch in the ninth. While the Indians dropped the game in extra innings, 6-4, it was a fitting end to the regular season at the Jake.
Now, they hit the road to finish the season with a three game series against the 2011 Central Division Champion, Detroit Tigers. Don’t expect the Tigers to roll over just because they have clinched the division and a spot in the playoffs. Detroit is currently one game behind Texas for the second best record in the American League which would give the Tigers home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
In the opener, tonight, Ubaldo Jimenez (4-3, 4.62, 1.39 WHIP) will make his last start of the year for the Tribe, a year which was a bit of a roller coaster. While Ubaldo did have some success after his trade to Cleveland, his command was not always there which hurt him quite a bit.
Jimenez will be relied on heavily in 2012 when the Indians look to take the next step towards contention in the American League. Two of the players he will see tonight, and a lot next year, are Miguel Cabrera (5 for 16) and Victor Martinez (5 for 14). Being strong against those two hitters will be key for the Tribe to win tonight, and next season.
A mid-season trade acquisition takes the mound for the Tigers as well with Doug Fister (10-13, 2.94, 1.09 WHIP) looking to finish his regular season on a strong note. Fister has pitched well for Detroit and the Tigers have won the last seven games that Fister has started. He is 7-1 since being traded from Seattle where he received little to no run support.
Finishing the season at .500, or better, is the main focus of the Tribe right now and barring a season-ending sweep in the Motor City, a place the Indians have struggled, they should be able to reach that goal. The series gets under way tonight at 7:05.
Cleveland Indians Starting Lineup:
1. Kosuke Fukudome, RF
2. Jason Kipnis, 2B
3. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
4. Travis Hafner, DH
5. Shelley Duncan, LF
6. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
7. Matt LaPorta, 1B
8. Ezequiel Carrera, CF
9. Lou Marson, C
Detroit Tigers Starting Lineup:
1. Will Rhymes, 2B
2. Don Kelly, 3B
3. Delmon Young, LF
4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
5. Victor Martinez, DH
6. Alex Avila, C
7. Ryan Raburn, RF
8. Ramon Santiago, SS
9. Andy Dirks, CF
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images