Series Preview #47: Cleveland Indians (76-69) at Detroit Tigers (80-66)
Bob Toth | On 12, Sep 2014
With each passing day, the 2014 Major League Baseball regular season gets closer and closer to its end. Despite a disappointing season on many levels, the Cleveland Indians find themselves still in the mix for a potential playoff berth for a second season in a row. As the club heads to Detroit to face the second-place Tigers in a pivotal three-game series, they must find a way to leave town with a series win, if not a sweep altogether.
The Indians (76-69) kept pace within the division with their approach of winning series. After a disappointing 4-3 loss on Tuesday, capped by four straight fourth inning hits by the Twins, Cleveland and Minnesota were rained out on Wednesday. In a traditional doubleheader on Thursday afternoon, Corey Kluber continued his Cy Young pursuit and won his 15th game of the season in an 8-2 trouncing in game one. T.J. House was equally as dominant again on the mound and Carlos Santana’s two RBI lead the way to a 2-0 Indians win.
Cleveland comes into this key series four games in back of Kansas City in the AL Central and three and a half games behind Detroit for second place in the division and for the second AL Wild Card spot. They have won nine series since the beginning of August, split a pair of two gamers, and lost just two (two gamer in Cincinnati, four game set with Detroit in Cleveland), not including the Monday makeup game loss to the Los Angeles Angels. The team is 24-14 (.632) in this stretch.
The Tigers (80-66) are nipping at the heels of the Royals in the AL Central, trailing the club by just a half game. They went head-to-head with the Central leaders this week and took two of three. Detroit put six runs on the board in the third inning on Monday on the way to a 9-5 win. The Tigers outlasted the Royals 4-2 on Tuesday behind a strong start from Max Scherzer. KC avoided the sweep with a 3-0 win on Wednesday, powered by seven shutout innings from James Shields and a combined two-hit shutout from its pitchers.
The Tribe will have their work cut out for them in game one of the series, as the Tigers will send David Price (2-3, 4.10 ERA) to the mound. After an 11-8 record with a 3.11 ERA for the Tampa Bay Rays to start the season, the left-handed Price has struggled in Detroit. He earned one of his two Detroit wins against Cleveland two starts ago. Carlos Carrasco (7-4, 2.69) is 4-0 with a 0.70 ERA in six starts since returning to the rotation. First pitch is scheduled for 7:08 PM ET.
Kyle Lobstein (1-0, 2.78) will make his second start of the season against Cleveland in Saturday’s 7:08 PM ET ball game. He struck out a career-high ten batters two starts ago against the Indians in five and one-third innings of a no-decision. Danny Salazar (6-7, 4.19) will counter for the Tribe. He was hit hard in the fifth inning of his last start, allowing six runs to the Angels in a loss.
Justin Verlander (13-12, 4.82) and Trevor Bauer (5-8, 4.12) will square off in the series finale at 1:08 PM ET on Sunday afternoon. Verlander’s only loss in his last four outings came against Cleveland. Despite winning three of his last four appearances, he has still allowed four earned runs or more in four of his last five starts. Bauer allowed four runs on four hits in the fourth inning in his last start, but settled down to give the team eight strikeouts over eight innings. He has not won since August 24th.
All three games will air on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Fox Sports Detroit. MLB Network will carry Friday’s contest. TBS will air Sunday’s game. Radio broadcasts will be available on the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and on 97.1 The Ticket in Detroit.
The long and storied history of these two clubs has been led by the Tigers franchise, who has claimed 1,094 wins all-time against the Indians. Cleveland has 1,050 victories against Detroit, but is 472-593 playing in Michigan.
Detroit took three of four from Cleveland at Progressive Field when the two teams met at the beginning of the month. One of the Tigers wins came on a ninth inning blown save and the other one came in extra innings.
The season series between the two clubs is tied at eight games a piece.
Detroit reliever Phil Coke is day-to-day with a lower back injury. He left Wednesday’s appearance early. Anibal Sanchez would still return later this month from a right pectoral strain. He is scheduled to play long toss on Friday.
Pitchers Joel Hanrahan (Tommy John surgery), Luke Putkonen (right elbow surgery), Bruce Rondon (Tommy John), and Drew VerHagen (stress reaction in his spine) are out for the remainder of the season, as are outfielder Andy Dirks (left hamstring strain) and shortstop Jose Iglesias (stress fractures of both shins).
BY THE NUMBERS
Michael Brantley saw his 12-game hitting streak come to an end in Tuesday’s loss to the Twins. He bounced back on Thursday to try to start a new streak, getting three hits in six at bats in the doubleheader sweep. He has hit .390 over the course of his last 15 games with nine RBI.
Santana has hit five home runs in the last ten games. He has pushed his team lead to 27 blasts on the season. He has heated up in September, posting a .308 batting average while slugging five home runs, two doubles, and driving in a dozen runs.
The key to the series for the Indians will be trying to find a way to stop the potent middle of the order of the Tigers lineup.
Miguel Cabrera has heated up since he faced the Indians at the beginning of last week. His batting average had fallen below the .300 mark until he went 9-for-18 against the Indians in the four-game set. He had hit in nine straight games until going 0-for-2 against the Royals in Wednesday’s loss. He has hit .450 in the month of September with five home runs and ten RBI. He had hit .252 with just one home run and ten RBI in the entire month of August.
If it feels like the Martinezes have destroyed Indians pitching this season, it is because they have.
Victor Martinez has hit .339 against Cleveland this season. His six home runs against the Tribe are more than he has versus any other opponent. His 13 RBI are just one short of the most he has hit against any one club. While the Indians have walked him a league high 13 times, with seven intentional passes, it still does not feel like the club has avoided his bat enough. For the season, he has hit .333 with 30 home runs and 96 RBI. His home run output is a new career best.
J.D. Martinez has hit .314 against the Indians with five home runs and 14 RBI. It mirrors his production against the Kansas City Royals, against whom he has hit .432 with five home runs and 15 RBI.
Travis Fryman manned the hot corner for both Detroit and Cleveland during the 1990s.
Fryman spent his first eight big league seasons in Detroit, coming up as a 21-year-old rookie playing shortstop and third base in 1990. By 1992, he was an All-Star, making the team three straight years and four out of five. He hit 149 home runs in his time with the Tigers, twice leading the league in at bats while posting a career .274 mark with the club.
Following the 1997 season, he was traded by the Tigers to the Arizona Diamondbacks for three players, the most notable being Joe Randa. His stay in the desert was short, as less than two weeks later, he was flipped by Arizona in a trade to Cleveland with pitcher Tom Martin and cash for third baseman Matt Williams.
Fryman spent five seasons in Cleveland. He had what arguably may have been his best season in 2000, when he hit .321 with 22 home runs, 38 doubles, and 106 RBI and made the All-Star team for the final time of his career. When he played his final game at the end of the 2002 season, he was only 33 years old.
Following his career, Fryman spent time managing the Indians minor league Mahoning Valley club for three years from 2008 to 2010 and then spent two more seasons as a minor league defensive coordinator for the team.
The Indians will hit the road for the Lone Star State for a four-game series with the Houston Astros beginning Monday night before flying to Minnesota for a weekend set with the Twins. The Tigers will head out on their final road trip of the season, taking on the Twins for three games, resting on Thursday’s off day, and then heading into Kansas City for three more with the Royals.
Photo: David Maxwell/Getty Images