Series Preview #24: Detroit Tigers (37-32) at Cleveland Indians (37-36)
Bob Toth | On 20, Jun 2014
The Cleveland Indians will look to build upon a Major League-best home record of 23-12 as they welcome the division rival Detroit Tigers to Progressive Field for a three-game weekend set.
The Indians (37-36) took two out of three in what was originally scheduled to be a four-game series with the Los Angeles Angels during the week. Cleveland won Monday’s opener, 4-3, as homers by Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana and an RBI-single from Michael Brantley capped the scoring. Los Angeles earned a decisive 9-3 win on Tuesday night as the Angels combined to hit four home runs, including two by Mike Trout. After rains interfered with Wednesday’s matchup, the Indians walked off a winner on Thursday after allowing a pair of runs in the top of the tenth. Nick Swisher delivered the game-winning walk-off grand slam for the 5-3 win.
Cleveland is third in the AL Central, two and a half games out of first and two games in back in the AL Wild Card picture.
The Tigers (37-32) enter play on Friday one-half game behind the Kansas City Royals. Since Detroit came to Cleveland in May, the club has gone 9-19, including a 6-11 mark in the month of June.
They narrowly avoided a sweep at the hands of the red-hot division leading Royals this week. Kansas City scored eleven runs on Monday and Tuesday in winning 11-8 and 11-4 decisions. The Tigers managed just five hits off of four KC pitchers in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss. An RBI-double from Miguel Cabrera in the fourth inning on Thursday knotted the game at four and two batters later, J.D. Martinez broke the tie with a home run for the eventual winning run in a 2-1 final.
Corey Kluber (6-4, 3.35 ERA) will take the mound in the opener for the Indians on Friday night. After a 4-0 record in May with six quality starts, Kluber is 0-1 with a 4.86 ERA in June and has yet to register a quality outing. Rick Porcello (8-4, 4.03) will counter for the Tigers. Porcello won eight of his first ten decisions but, like Kluber, has cooled off in June, going 0-2 with a 5.21 ERA in the month. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM ET.
Trevor Bauer (2-3, 4.20) and Justin Verlander (6-7, 4.98) will have a rematch of an earlier season battle on Saturday evening at 7:15 PM ET. Bauer tossed a career-high 119 pitches in a victory over the Angels on Monday. Verlander has lost three straight starts and five of his last six. He has allowed 19 earned runs in his last 18 2/3 innings pitched over those three straight losses.
Josh Tomlin (4-4, 3.86) will take center stage for Cleveland in the finale at 1:05 PM ET on Sunday. He has allowed season-high hit totals in each of his last two starts, both losses. Max Scherzer (8-3, 3.84) will oppose for Brad Ausmus’s Tigers. He was shelled for ten runs on ten hits in four innings of work on Tuesday in a loss against the Royals in his first start after throwing his first career complete game on June 7th. It increased his season ERA by 0.79.
Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Fox Sports Detroit will carry Friday’s and Sunday’s contests. WKYC Channel 3 in Cleveland will also air Friday night’s game and Fox will air Saturday’s broadcast. Radio versions will be available on the affiliates of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and the Detroit Tigers Radio Network.
Zach McAllister was activated from the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday, but had his start on Thursday pushed back after Wednesday’s rainout. Reliever Josh Outman was designated for assignment to make room on the roster for him.
With several off days on the schedule and no need for a fifth starter for the near future, McAllister was optioned to Triple-A Columbus on Friday. Reliever/fan favorite Vinnie Pestano was recalled. He was 2-3 in Columbus with a 1.78 ERA in 25 games. He has limited opposing hitters to a .198 average, including a .125 mark to right-handers and an .088 average when pitching ahead in the count, while in Triple-A.
Brantley is day-to-day after suffering a concussion in a collision at second base Monday night. He may be able to return to the lineup Saturday. He is expected to hit on the field prior to Friday’s game and be re-evaluated afterwards.
Andy Dirks is on the 60-day disabled list after back surgery earlier in the year and could return later this month. Shortstop Jose Iglesias (stress fractures in both shins) and reliever Bruce Rondon (March 2014 Tommy John surgery) are both out for the year.
Outfielder Torii Hunter is day-to-day with right hamstring soreness. He may be available for pinch-hitting duties on Friday, but is not expected to start.
With three walks in Thursday’s game, Santana reclaimed the second spot in total walks on the season with 53. His batting average has climbed to .191 and his on-base percentage has increased to .353 behind a .318 batting average for the month of June. His nine home runs are second on the club behind Brantley’s eleven.
Brantley is now fourth in the AL with a .323 batting average.
Swisher may be having a horrible month of June overall, but he has made a couple of hits count the most when he has needed to. He has just one hit in 23 at bats in the month in regulation. In extra innings, he is a perfect 2-for-2 with a pair of walk-off blasts.
Victor Martinez is posting career numbers for the Tigers this season. He is hitting .328, third-best in the AL, and has the fourth-most home runs in the league with 17. His 45 RBI on the year are 12th-best, trailing Brantley by one.
Outfielder Rajai Davis is fourth in the MLB and second in the AL in stolen bases with 20. He has been caught four times.
HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE
Since 1994, the season that Progressive Field opened as Jacobs Field, no stadium around Major League Baseball has witnessed more walk-off home runs. The walk-off grand slam by Swisher on Thursday afternoon was the team’s fourth walk-off homer of the year and the 74th in the history of the ball park.
Oakland’s O.co Coliseum is the next closest with 56.
The Indians still hold a losing record to their most frequently faced foe. The Tigers have claimed 1,087 wins all-time, while the Indians have earned 1,046 victories. Cleveland is 577-495 at home, including a three-game sweep in May. They are 4-1 so far this season against the Tigers after posting a 4-15 record against their Motor City rivals in 2013.
Detroit’s first base coach Omar Vizquel is back in Cleveland this weekend while representing the Tigers. He will be inducted into the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame in a ceremony prior to Saturday night’s contest. The first 10,000 fans in attendance will also receive a souvenir Vizquel jersey.
Vizquel spent his first five Major League seasons in Seattle after debuting at the age of 21 in 1989. The shortstop was a regular in the lineup but was best known for his glove, hitting below .255 in four of his first five seasons. He won a Gold Glove, the first of nine consecutive, in his final season with the Mariners.
Vizquel became a mainstay in the Indians lineup for eleven years, making three AL All-Star teams and winning eight straight Gold Gloves. He was a threat on the base paths, stealing 30 or more bases in four consecutive seasons from 1996 to 1999, topping out with a career high of 43 in 1997. He led or tied for the league lead in sacrifices three different times during his stay in Cleveland. He posted one .300-plus season in 1999, hitting .333 with a .397 on-base percentage.
He became a free agent following the 2004 season at age 37 and signed with the San Francisco Giants, where he spent four seasons and won another two Gold Glove awards in 2005 and 2006. He spent one season with the Texas Rangers in 2009, two years in Chicago with the White Sox in 2010 and 2011, and one final season at age 45 in Toronto with the Blue Jays.
He played a total of 2,968 games, registered 12,013 plate appearances, and accumulated 2,877 career hits and a career .272 batting average over the course of 24 seasons. He reached the postseason six different times, all with Cleveland, and none after the 2001 season.
The Indians will have Monday off before a short two-game series in Arizona against the Diamondbacks and another day off on Thursday. The Tigers will take Monday off before resuming their nine-game road trip with three games in Texas starting Tuesday evening.
Photo: Chuck Crow/Cleveland Plain Dealer