Series Preview #22: Cleveland Indians (30-29) at Detroit Tigers (32-26)
Bob Toth | On 07, Jun 2013
A reeling Cleveland Indians squad continues a tough road trip as they head to Detroit to play three this weekend against the rival Tigers.
The Indians (30-29) have not played well at all since losing a two-game midweek series with the Tigers in late May. Since that sweep, they are 4-12 and have fallen out of first place. They had taken two of three earlier in the season in Detroit.
The Tigers (32-26) have enjoyed home cooking this season. They are 19-10 on the season at Comerica Park, the second-best winning percentage at home of American League teams. They have not been exempt from the struggles affecting the AL Central, as they have dropped six of ten and have failed to capitalize on the Indians slide to increase their distance in the division.
Justin Verlander and Ubaldo Jimenez will start for their respective teams on Friday in the scheduled 7:08 PM ET start time. It will be the third time this season that the two have squared off. Jimenez (4-3, 4.83 ERA) won the first matchup in a 7-6 win on May 11th in Detroit. Verlander (7-4, 3.70) earned the victory, 11-7, on a rainy night in Cleveland on May 22nd, aided by several rain delays that seemed to drown out a late Indians rally.
Rick Porcello will make the first pitch at 4:08 PM ET on Saturday. Justin Masterson will counter for the Indians. Porcello (2-3, 5.21) is 5-3 in his career with a 4.03 ERA against Cleveland. He earned a no decision in six innings earlier in the year against the Indians. Masterson (8-4, 3.57) looks to rebound from a lackluster outing in New York, where he allowed seven earned runs in a loss.
Sunday’s 1:08 PM ET series finale in the Motor City will feature Anibal Sanchez and Scott Kazmir. Sanchez (6-5, 2.65) has struck out 30 batters in his last three starts, one of which was a complete game one-hitter against Minnesota. Kazmir (3-3, 5.24) threw a season-high 111 pitches over six innings in a loss on Tuesday versus the Yankees.
The series will be televised on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Fox Sports Detroit. Radio broadcasts can be heard on both the Cleveland Indians Radio Network and on 97.1 The Ticket out of Detroit.
The Yankees maintained their season dominance of the Tribe as they swept the Indians out of New York in a three game weekday series. They won all but one matchup on the season, with the exception of a complete game, 1-0 shutout by Masterson in the first game of a double header in May.
Masterson was battered for seven runs on Monday night as the Indians opened their road trip with a 7-4 loss. Masterson allowed seven runs on nine hits in six and one-third inning. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera could not exit the field under his own power after injuring his leg running to first base mid-game. Mark Teixeira hit his first home run of the season, a grand slam, and just his second hit since returning from the DL.
The Indians fell, 4-3, on Tuesday, despite a good pitching performance from Kazmir. A four-run third inning, capped by a three-run home run by Teixeira, would prove to be the only damage done to Kazmir. The Indians cut the deficit to one on a three-run home run by Drew Stubbs the opposite way off of Joba Chamberlain in the seventh inning, but they missed on a scoring opportunity in the eighth. Mariano Rivera closed the game out for his 21st save of the season.
New York finished off the sweep behind a complete game effort from former Tribesman CC Sabathia, and Travis Hafner paced the Yankees with a two-run home run as they were victorious Wednesday, 6-4. Corey Kluber struck out eight over six innings while minimizing the damage of allowing six runs in the first two innings on the afternoon. The Indians scored twice in the sixth and twice more in the seventh on a Yan Gomes two-run home run.
Michael Brantley is batting .368 on the season with six RBI against the Tigers. He has been unaffected by Verlander’s ace status over the last several seasons. Brantley has a lifetime mark of .448 against the former Cy Young winner, with 13 hits (11 singles) in 32 plate appearances. He has reached base in exactly half of his trips into the batter’s box against him.
Carlos Santana has three home runs a piece versus Verlander and Porcello.
Nick Swisher is in the midst of a 1-for-25 hitting slump. Beginning with a flyout in the ninth inning of a May 29th win, he has just a single and five walks to his credit, but has also made several loud outs.
There have been a couple of relevant injuries for the Indians in the last several days.
Starting pitcher Zach McAllister was skipped in the rotation due to irritation with his right middle finger that affected his pitching in his last start. He will miss his previously scheduled start on Friday night and will instead look to pitch Tuesday.
Cabrera was lost in the series with New York after injuring his right quadriceps running to first base and was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Juan Diaz was recalled from Columbus to provide depth behind Mike Aviles, who will assume the starting role in Cabrera’s absence.
The timetable for a return by Indians reliever Chris Perez has become a bit hazy after news reports this week regarding a delivery of drugs to the residence he rents in Rocky River. He and his wife were charged on Friday with misdemeanor marijuana possession. He had played catch on Thursday in Cleveland for just the second time since being placed on the 15-day disabled list.
Former Indians minor league reliever JC Romero, recently released from his Triple-A contract with the Washington Nationals, signed a minor league deal with the Indians on Friday. He pitched for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic and adds another left-handed bullpen arm to the depth at Columbus. He had a 2.84 ERA in 13 appearances for Washington’s Triple-A club prior to a disabled list trip for tendinitis of the left shoulder.
The Tigers gained ground in the Central after taking two of three from the Tampa Bay Rays in Detroit this week.
The Tigers did on Tuesday what no team had done this season – beat Tampa’s Matt Moore. They did so in resounding fashion with a 10-1 victory. Detroit’s starter Sanchez struck out nine in seven innings of work. Prince Fielder had a solo home run and drove in four on the game. MLB’s leading RBI man, Miguel Cabrera, did not drive in any of the ten runs.
A fantastic pitching duel between Doug Fister and Alex Cobb went in Tampa’s favor, as a sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth led to three runs and a Rays’ 3-0 victory on Wednesday. Fister was tagged with the loss, despite pitching eight and one-third innings and striking out four. Detroit was limited to six hits and only one of the extra base variety.
Max Scherzer improved his season record to 8-0 with a 5-2 Detroit victory to win the series on Thursday. Scherzer struck out nine in seven innings, allowing just one run on four hits. Victor Martinez supported his effort with a two-run home run in the fourth inning off of his former teammate, Roberto Hernandez. Jose Valverde pitched a perfect ninth for his seventh save of the year.
Cabrera still leads all of baseball in batting average (.373) and on-base percentage (.450). His 17 home runs on the season trail only Chris Davis’s 20 in the AL, but he has a dozen more runs driven in than Davis. He has batted .350 over his career against Jimenez and .393 against Masterson.
Martinez has a pair of home runs and eight runs batted in against Jimenez in 22 plate appearances. He is a .400 hitter lifetime against Masterson.
Brayan Pena will almost assuredly get in the lineup against Jimenez. He is 5-for-7 in his career (.714) in seven plate appearances against the Indians starter with two doubles, a triple, and a run batted in.
Jhonny Peralta has just one hit in 15 at bats against Masterson, good for a .067 batting average.
The Tigers will head to Kansas City for the first three games of a six-game road trip following completion of their set with Cleveland. The Indians will fly to Texas for a three-game series with the Rangers before returning home for a nine-game home stand.
Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images