Biggest Series of the Season for Tribe as Tigers Come to Town
Bob Toth | On 16, Sep 2016
The Indians have asked fans to “rock the red” all weekend long to help drown out the orange of visiting Detroit Tiger fans (not to take away anything from that other orange-wearing team that will be in Cleveland over the weekend as well) as the Rock and Roll City hosts the Motor City for three giant games over the weekend.
Cleveland (84-62) could destroy the hopes and dreams of postseason play for Detroit (78-68) with a continued domination of the AL Central’s second place club and the Indians’ chief rival. Things could take a dramatic turn the other direction if the Tigers end their 1-11 record against the Indians and sweep the series to pull within three games of the top spot in the division with four more head-to-head matchups left to play in a week and a half in Detroit.
The Indians return home after a tough 3-4 road trip that saw little production from the offense in the key moments that needed them the most. They will send out their top three healthy pitchers this weekend in a glimpse of what the playoff rotation may look like.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
The 23-year-old rookie Fulmer has etched his name in at the top of the list for AL Rookie of the Year contention with his strong debut season this year. He is 1-1 this season against Cleveland with a 4.91 ERA in eleven innings. He pitched better his last time out in a no-decision against Baltimore, allowing two runs on three hits in seven innings, but he has not won a start his last four times out, dating back to a complete game four-hitter against Texas on August 14. Kluber is just 4-6 in 15 career games against Detroit, but is 2-0 this season with just one run allowed over 17 innings of work (0.53 ERA) with 17 strikeouts to two walks. His seven-game winning streak ended two starts ago against Houston, but he bounced back with seven innings of quality work on Sunday against the Twins, allowing one unearned run while striking out ten in a victory.
Verlander is marred in a three-game winless stretch on the mound, taking back-to-back no-decisions before earning a loss against Baltimore with five innings of three-run baseball. He also has a three-game winless streak against the Indians this season, boasting losses in all three outings while earning a 9.18 ERA and 1.68 WHIP. He has allowed 17 runs in 16 2/3 innings, with 17 strikeouts and seven walks. Carrasco has evened his record against Detroit to 6-6 with a pair of wins in three starts. Like Kluber, his ERA against the Tigers is miniscule at 0.51 (one run in 17 2/3 innings). He has struck out 14 while walking four and did earn a complete game shutout against them for the first time this season. He is coming off of the shortest start of his season (matching that of July 10 against New York and ignoring an injury departure on April 24), when he allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits in three and two-thirds innings to the White Sox.
The 23-year-old southpaw Norris has been back up at the Major League level getting regular work in the rotation since early August, but is just 1-2 since his return in those seven starts. He struck out a season high eleven batters his last time out in six and one-third innings against the Minnesota Twins. He has faced the Indians twice in his career – both at Progressive Field – while posting a 3.60 ERA and 2.00 WHIP in two no-decisions. Bauer took a bizarre loss his last time out against the White Sox after looking in command for the first five innings. The floodgates opened in the sixth as he was dealt his seventh loss of the year. He is 4-2 in his career against the Tigers with a pair of wins this season in two games (one start). He has allowed five runs on seven hits with three walks in nine innings of work.
TV (Friday and Sunday) – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; Fox Sports Detroit; FS1 (Saturday); TBS (Sunday, out of market)
Radio (all games) – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; 97.1 The Ticket
Michael Brantley (LF) – 60-day disabled list (May 10) – recovery from right biceps surgery; out for season
Lonnie Chisenhall (RF) – day-to-day (September 15) – mild lower abdominal strain
Yan Gomes (C) – 60-day disabled list (July 17) – separated right shoulder; fractured metacarpal bone
Danny Salazar (SP) – indefinite (September 12) – mild strain in right flexor musculature
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
Cleveland has dominated Detroit like no other team this season, posting an 11-1 record against their top divisional rival while outscoring the club by more than double, 79-36.
The Tigers ended an eleven-game losing skid against the Indians to start the season in their last game, when Fulmer and Detroit defeated Josh Tomlin and the Tribe, 12-2, at Progressive Field.
With the lopsided win total, it is no wonder that the Indians have hit .304 in the 12 games so far with 25 doubles, eight triples, and 17 homers. The Tigers, by comparison, have hit .203 with eleven doubles and ten homers.
MAYBIN MAKING UP FOR LOST TIME
Center fielder Cameron Maybin has been limited to just 80 games this season in his return to Detroit, but has been productive when able to make it into the lineup. He is hitting .318 with a .385 on-base percentage with 12 doubles, three triples, three homers, and 38 RBI while scoring 49 runs. Despite playing significantly fewer games than other guys on the roster, he leads the club with 15 stolen bases in 21 attempts.
While playing in just half of the games in the season series so far, Maybin is one of the top hitters in the Detroit lineup against Cleveland, batting .333 in 2016 with a double and a homer and four runs batted in.
DON’T COUNT OUT KINSLER
Ian Kinsler gets overlooked at times in the Tigers lineup with some of the bigger bats behind him like Cabrera, J.D. Martinez, Victor Martinez, and Justin Upton, but that should take nothing away from his efforts on the field. In 141 games coming into this weekend, he is hitting .280 with a team-high 105 runs. He is second on the club with 160 hits (trailing only Cabrera’s 166) and 26 homers (trailing Cabrera’s 33) and is third with 26 doubles. He has also picked off 14 bases in 20 attempts.
His production has dipped slightly since the start of the second half, as he has hit .264 with nine doubles, a triple, ten homers, and 26 RBI since the All-Star game. Against Cleveland, he has hit just .191 with eight singles and a homer while driving in three.
NO SURPRISE, MIGGY LEADS THE WAY
Miguel Cabrera is your usual Tigers leader in most power-related offensive categories for the club. He has put together a .308/.382/.545 slash line with 27 doubles, a team-high 33 homers, and is tops on the team with 91 RBI. He is slashing .333/.403/.608 since the break with eleven doubles, 15 homers, and 38 RBI in that span.
Cabrera has not been able to figure out the Indians this season, hitting just .205 with eight singles and three runs batted in.
HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE
The return to Progressive Field for the Tribe bodes well for several weapons on the club.
The Indians are hitting .292 as a team at home with 164 doubles, five triples, and 93 home runs. Mike Napoli is the runaway leader in homers (21) and RBI (65) at Progressive Field while hitting .295. Jose Ramirez is the team leader in home doubles with 26 in 69 games while hitting .340. Francisco Lindor leads the club with a .371 average at home this season while leading the team with 103 hits, including 23 doubles (second on the team), two triples (leads the team), six homers, and 45 RBI (second to Napoli).
Lindor has appeared in all 12 games of the season series between the two clubs and has hit .364 (16-for-44) with three doubles, three homers, nine RBI, five walks, and a team-high 15 runs scored. Three of his MLB-leading 12 sacrifice flies have come off of Detroit pitching.
For the season, Lindor is hitting .313 with a .359 OBP and .447 slugging in 145 games with 28 doubles, three triples, 14 homers, and 70 RBI. The average has jumped some in the second half, when he has hit .325.
The Indians will take their final day off of the 2016 regular season on Monday before kicking off a three-game set with the third place Kansas City Royals starting on Tuesday. They will wrap up their nine-game homestand with three more next weekend with the Chicago White Sox. The Tigers will continue their brief road trip after a day off of their own on Monday with a three-game stay at Target Field against the Twins before returning home to host the Kansas City Royals for three and the Indians for four in the final week of the month.
Photo: Duane Burleson/Getty Images