Series Preview #15: Detroit Tigers (27-12) at Cleveland Indians (19-25)
Bob Toth | On 19, May 2014
The Cleveland Indians began arguably their most challenging stretch of games of the season over the weekend and responded in humiliating fashion. Demolished and demeaned by the Oakland Athletics, the Indians will now host the Detroit Tigers, the team with the best road and overall records in all of baseball.
Cleveland (19-25) was outscored 30-6 in their three games against the American League West leading A’s to fall ten and a half games in back of Detroit. Oakland trounced the Tribe 11-1 on Friday courtesy of an eight-run second inning. The Indians could not benefit from the early ejection of the Athletics’ Scott Kazmir, losing a 6-2 final on Saturday night. Justin Masterson was shelled for seven runs on Sunday in a 13-3 Cleveland loss.
Detroit (27-12) heads to Progressive Field winners of six straight games and coming off of their first sweep at Fenway Park since June of 1983. The Tigers have won 15 of their last 18, have won eleven straight road games, and are 14-4 away from home this season. They won 1-0 on Friday behind a three-hit shutout from their pitching staff. A three-hit game from Miguel Cabrera guided them to a 6-1 win on Saturday night. A three-run third, capped by a two-run shot from Victor Martinez, gave the Tigers the sweep on Sunday night, 6-2.
Corey Kluber (4-3, 3.38 ERA) will lead Cleveland from the center of the diamond in the series opener on Monday night. He is 1-3 in his career against Detroit with a 5.50 ERA in seven games. Drew Smyly (2-2, 2.70) will start for Brad Ausmus’s Tigers. He is 1-1 with a 5.09 ERA in eleven career games against Cleveland, but will make just his second start against them. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM ET.
Trevor Bauer (0-1, 1.50) makes his return to the Major League rotation in Tuesday’s 7:05 PM ET start. He was 4-1 with a 2.15 ERA at Triple-A Columbus in seven starts this season. Justin Verlander (5-2, 3.15) will oppose. He is 18-14 with a 4.28 ERA in his career against the Indians, but is 9-10 with a 5.26 ERA at Progressive Field.
Zach McAllister (3-4, 5.36) will wrap up the series in Wednesday’s 12:05 PM ET afternoon matinee. He looks to rebound from the shortest start of his Major League career. Max Scherzer (6-1, 1.83) will take the mound for the Tigers. He is 8-4 in 15 starts against the Indians, but is 3-3 in Cleveland.
All three games of the series will air on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Fox Sports Detroit. Monday night’s game will also air on ESPN. On air broadcasts can be heard on the radio affiliates of the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers.
Cleveland’s second baseman Jason Kipnis is inching closer to a rehabilitation assignment. He has been on the 15-day disabled list while recovering from a strained right oblique muscle. Outfielder Nyjer Morgan (sprained PCL in right knee) and designated hitter Jason Giambi (strained right calf muscle) remain on the 15-day disabled list.
Recently signed reliever Joel Hanrahan is on the 15-day disabled list while recovering from Tommy John surgery last year. Reliever Bruce Rondon will miss the season after undergoing his own Tommy John surgery in March. Pitcher Luke Putkonen is on the DL with right elbow problems. His rehab assignment was scrapped pending a follow-up with the doctor.
David Murphy continues his torrid start to the season. He is hitting .522 in the last week with a home run and six runs batted in. He has hit in each of his last five games, including three multi-hit games, after going 0-for-11 during Cleveland’s series in Tampa Bay.
Lonnie Chisenhall continues to make a case for extra playing time, but has mustered just three at bats against left-handed pitching this season. He is hitting .500 in the last week with seven hits in 14 at bats. The long ball has been absent from the slugger’s bat, but he has made much more efficient use of the entire field this season.
The streaky Asdrubal Cabrera has put together a good week at the plate, hitting .353 with an on-base percentage of .455. Two of his six hits were doubles and he walked four times.
Michael Bourn has hit safely in 19 of his 24 games this season, despite his .252 batting average.
Former Indians fan favorite Martinez leads qualified American League hitters with a .331 average. The pop has returned in his bat, but so has his stellar eye at the plate. Martinez leads the Tigers with ten home runs, but has also managed to strike out just nine times so far this season.
After a slow start, Cabrera is now hitting .316 with seven home runs and 39 RBI. His RBI production is the third-highest in baseball. He comes to Cleveland on a nine-game hitting streak, including back-to-back three hit games against Boston.
Ian Kinsler is hitting .333 in his last ten games and .315 on the season. He has hit safely in four straight, ten of eleven, and 16 of his last 18.
SOMETHING HAS TO GIVE
The Indians pitching staff as a whole is tied for the MLB lead in strikeouts with the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers with 380 on the season. The starting rotation is responsible for 246 of those strikeouts, the most from any starting rotation in baseball. The bullpen has allowed a .226 batting average against, the second-best mark in the AL.
The Tigers lead the AL with a .278 batting average and 37 stolen bases. Their lineup has struck out the second fewest times in all of baseball.
The Indians have played more games against the Tigers than any other team in club history. They have been dealt more losses (1,087) than wins (1,043) throughout their 114-year rivalry. Cleveland is 574-495 at home all-time. The two teams split a rain-shortened series at Comerica Park earlier this season.
Before the Tigers had Prince Fielder, they had Prince Hal.
Tuesday marks the birthday of Hall of Fame left-hander Hal Newhouser. Born in Detroit in 1921, Newhouser would make his Major League debut with his hometown Tigers on September 29th, 1939, at the age of 18.
Newhouser spent 15 seasons in a Tigers uniform and was a seven-time American League All-Star. He won the MVP award in back-to-back seasons in 1944 and 1945. He went 29-9 in 1944 with a 2.22 ERA in 47 games, including 25 complete games and six shutouts. He worked 312 1/3 innings while striking out 187 batters. The next season, he was 25-9 with a 1.81 ERA in 40 games, including 29 complete games and eight shutouts in 313 1/3 innings. He won 20 of his first 22 starts, earning win 20 in the Tigers’ 91st game of the season. He struck out 212 on his way to winning the pitching Triple Crown. He was 2-1 in the World Series on his way to his lone championship season, throwing complete game efforts in Game 5 and Game 7 against the Chicago Cubs.
He led the league for the third straight season in 1946 with 26 wins and won his second straight ERA title with a 1.94 mark. He threw 29 complete games and another six shutouts and finished second in the MVP voting. He struck out a career-high 275 batters.
After a disappointing 17-17 season in 1947, he rebounded with his final 20 win season, going 21-12 for the Tigers in 1948.
In 1954, he joined the Indians as a reliever. He was 7-2 with a 2.51 ERA in 26 games. He appeared in two more games for Cleveland the following season to culminate his 17-year MLB career.
After his playing career ended, he worked as a scout for Baltimore and later for Cleveland. Newhouser was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992. He passed away in 1998.
The Indians will head east to tackle the Baltimore Orioles for four games over the weekend at the Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Tigers will head home to host the Texas Rangers for four games before returning to the road to end the month.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images