Series Preview #16: Detroit Tigers (23-19) at Cleveland Indians (26-17)
Bob Toth | On 21, May 2013
The attention of the baseball world returns to the corner of Carnegie and Ontario in downtown Cleveland as the blazing hot Indians welcome the Detroit Tigers in for a short two-game set this week.
The Tigers (23-19) come to Cleveland a week and a half after dropping two of three against the Indians at Comerica Park. They relinquished their longest lead in the American League Central over the weekend to the Indians after losing their series against the Texas Rangers. They are 10-12 on the road this season and have a 17-18 record against all teams not named the Houston Astros.
The Indians (26-17) pushed their lead in the AL Central to two and a half games after sweeping the Seattle Mariners in a four-game series over the weekend. They have not lost a series since a sweep by Boston from April 16th to 18th. They have now won 18 of their last 22 games (since game two of the doubleheader in Kansas City) and are 21-8 since that sweep by Boston.
Max Scherzer and Corey Kluber will pair up again at 7:05 PM ET on Tuesday, just as they did on Friday, May 10th. Scherzer (5-0, 3.98 ERA) will look to remain undefeated on the season and win his second start this year against the Indians. He gave up a season-high tying five earned runs in seven innings against Houston in his last start. Kluber (3-2, 5.40) earned the win in Philadelphia on Wednesday with a quality six innings and three earned runs. He was hit hard for eight earned runs and eleven hits in a loss against Detroit earlier this month.
In Wednesday’s 7:05 PM ET first pitch, Justin Verlander and Ubaldo Jimenez will once again match up on the mound. Verlander (4-4, 3.17) fell victim to the curse of the Cy Young Award his last time out, becoming the sixth of seven former winners to lose to the Indians this season. He was shelled in his last start, unable to finish the third inning after allowing eight earned runs. He is 7-10 in his career in 18 games in Cleveland and is 14-14 all-time with a 4.57 ERA against the Indians. The Cleveland bullpen ended a streak of three straight decisions with a victory for Jimenez (3-2, 5.31), who struck out a season-high nine batters in just five innings on Friday night. He limited the Tigers to just three hits and struck out eight Detroit batters in his previous outing.
The Tigers come to town fresh off of a difficult series against the Rangers in Arlington.
Texas took the opener on Thursday, 10-4, as Yu Darvish sizzled and the Rangers ran ace Verlander with a seven-run third inning. Verlander gave up a three-run home run and walked in two runs with the bases loaded. It marked just the fourth time in his career he had failed to pitch at least three innings. The Tigers took a brief lead in the third on a leadoff home run by Don Kelly and sacrifice flies by Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez, but lost it for good in the bottom of the frame.
Miguel Cabrera had three hits and an RBI as the Tigers claimed a 2-1 win on Friday. Rick Porcello (2-2) had one of his better starts of the season, despite not making it out of the sixth. He allowed one run and struck out six. After the RBI double by Cabrera in the fifth, Alex Avila drove him in three batters later with a sacrifice fly in what became the difference in the ball game. Jose Valverde earned his fourth save of the season.
The Rangers scored six times in the first three innings on their way to a 7-2 final over the Tigers on Saturday. Anibal Sanchez (4-4) lasted just two and two-thirds innings and gave up six runs, five of which were earned. Texas’s Elvis Andrus was a perfect 5-for-5 at the plate with three runs scored. Andrus and Lance Berkman each had a pair of RBI.
Cabrera became the first player ever to homer three times, have four hits in four at bats, drive in five, and score four runs and wind up on the losing side of the day’s outcome, as the Tigers lost 11-8 to the Rangers on Sunday Night Baseball. Prince Fielder added three RBI of his own, but it could not overcome a shaky outing from Doug Fister, who did not finish the fifth before giving up his fifth earned run. Reliever Jose Ortega allowed four earned on five hits and two walks in one inning of work for the loss.
Cabrera continues to lead all of baseball with his .387 batting average and is second to Joey Votto of Cincinnati with a .476 on-base percentage. He has crawled into the top ten in home runs and leads the game with 47 RBI in 42 games played. He has a May-best seven home runs and is batting .423 in the month. He is a career .342 hitter against Jimenez with six RBI and .444 against Kluber with four RBI.
Shortstop Jhonny Peralta has hit in 15 of his last 17 games. He is batting .364 over his last ten games. He has four hits in seven at bats against Kluber (.571) with a pair of doubles.
Omar Infante, who seemed to always be on base in the first series with the Indians, is batting .344 over his last ten games. He was 5-for-11 against the Indians with two singles, two doubles, a triple, and three runs batted in.
The bat of Avila has been on the chilled side. He has just one hit in his last 18 at bats and is batting .176 over his last ten games.
Backup catcher Brayan Pena is 4-for-5 in his career against Jimenez.
For the second time this season, the Indians swept an AL West opponent in a four-game series. This time, Cleveland needed to use a little bit more of that home field magic.
One swing of the bat erased an early advantage given to Jimenez, but one late swing of the bat sent Indians fans home voiceless on Friday night, as Jason Kipnis started the postgame fireworks early with a three-run walkoff home run in the bottom of the tenth inning to give Cleveland a 6-3 win over Seattle. Jimenez struck out nine batters in five innings of work. His lone mistake was giving up a long blast into the mezzanine to Kendrys Morales. Reliever Rich Hill allowed a two-run home run to Raul Ibanez to tie the game at three in the sixth. The speed of Drew Stubbs and Michael Bourn kept the tenth inning alive for Kipnis, whose home run capped off the night for the second-largest crowd at Progressive Field this season.
Starting pitching continued their great run of late, as Zach McAllister gave the Indians another quality start, and despite a blown save on two home runs allowed by Chris Perez, Cleveland walked it off again with a game-winning fielder’s choice by Mark Reynolds, 5-4. McAllister gave up just a two-run home run in seven and one-thirds innings. After Perez allowed the Mariners to tie it up with two outs in the ninth, the first four Indians reached base in the home half of the frame, as Kipnis singled, Asdrubal Cabrera doubled off the wall after missing a bunt attempt, and Nick Swisher was intentionally walked. Reynolds sent a ground ball to short, where Brendan Ryan’s hurried throw to the plate appeared to beat Kipnis, but Jesus Montero’s foot pulled off of the dish.
Justin Masterson erased all doubts of a walkoff on Sunday as he outdueled another former Cy Young winner, Felix Hernandez, on the way to a 6-0 victory. Masterson (7-2) worked seven innings, struck out a team-high eleven batters, gave up just three hits and walked a pair. The Indians struck against Hernandez early, plating a pair of runs in the first on RBI hits from Michael Brantley and Swisher. Brantley added a monster three-run home run in his next at bat, pushing the Indians lead to 5-0.
Yan Gomes played the hero on Monday afternoon as he hit a pair of home runs, including the walkoff three-run blast in the bottom of the tenth to give the Indians their third walkoff winner of the series, 10-8. Scott Kazmir labored through three-plus innings and allowed five earned runs. The Indians put four runs on the board in the second, when Ryan Raburn and Gomes went back-to-back. Vinnie Pestano, Perez, and Joe Smith all allowed solo home runs. The Indians were aided by a costly two-out error by Seattle closer Tom Wilhelmsen in the bottom of the ninth, keeping the game alive and costing Wilhelmsen his first blown save of the season.
Masterson was named the AL Player of the Week for last week. He turned in two scoreless efforts, a four-hit complete game shutout of the New York Yankees on Monday, followed up with seven scoreless innings with a season-high eleven strikeouts against Hernandez on Sunday. He leads the AL in starts, complete games, shutouts, innings pitched, and batters faced; is third in strikeouts; and is ninth with a .210 batting average against.
The Major League leader in runs batted in so far in the month of May is … Kipnis. His 20 RBI are tops in the Bigs and his six home runs are good for a tie for fourth. He leads the AL with 14 extra base hits and trails the NL leader by one. He is batting .324 in the month, jumping his season average 64 points after a .200 start in April.
Mike Aviles has five hits in his last eleven at bats. In ten plate appearances against Scherzer, he has four hits and three runs batted in.
Monday’s hero Gomes is batting .393 in limited action in May as he continues to make a case for a permanent place on the 25-man roster. Half of his hits on the season have been for extra bases (two doubles, two triples, two home runs).
Brantley finished the series with Seattle 4-for-12 with five runs batted in. He has batted .344 in his last ten games and is batting .333 for the month. He has the best active numbers of anyone on the Indians roster against Verlander – he has eleven hits in 26 at bats (.423).
In their last 28 games, the Indians have lowered their team ERA from 4.60 to 3.55 and raised their team batting average by over 50 points.
Detroit needed to use their disabled list after Cleveland’s trip to Comerica Park two weekends ago.
Austin Jackson, who was injured during the Indians trip to Detroit, was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 12th with a pulled right hamstring. Outfielder Avisail Garcia was recalled from Triple-A Toledo to replace him on the roster.
Reliever Octavio Dotel remains on the DL while suffering from right elbow inflammation. He is still receiving treatment for the swelling, but may resume throwing this week.
Reliever Al Alburquerque was optioned out to Toledo during last week.
Prior to the game on Tuesday, the Indians announced Swisher was not in the game’s lineup due to the birth of his daughter. Cord Phelps joined the team in Cleveland in the event that Swisher would be placed on the Paternity List. Brantley will bat fourth.
Cleveland starting pitcher Brett Myers made a rehab start on Friday at Double-A Akron and was reported to be without pain in the outing. He threw 33 pitches (one hit, one walk, no runs) in the game and finished his day with a bullpen session. He is expected to see another two minor league rehab appearances, including one Tuesday night that is planned to be a five inning effort of approximately 75 pitches.
Reserve catcher Lou Marson, on the 15-day disabled list for the second time this season, is participating in a throwing program to aid his right shoulder inflammation, but it is unknown when he might return to the big league roster.
After taking two of three in Detroit their last time against the Tigers, the Indians improved to 1,040-1,072 against their number one most-played rival all-time. The Indians have won the last two match ups and have a much better record at home than on the road against the Tigers, with a record in Cleveland of 573-486 coming in.
For TV viewers, both games can be found on Fox Sports Detroit and Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio. For those tuning in on the airwaves, listen in on 97.1 The Ticket in the Detroit area or on any of the stations of the Cleveland Indians Radio Network.
Detroit will return home after the series for four with the Minnesota Twins before a home-and-home series with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cleveland will fly to Boston to take on the Red Sox in four games at Fenway Park, then move on to Cincinnati for a home-and-home series with the Reds.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images