On June 24th, the third place Detroit Tigers took on the fourth place Cleveland Indians. The Indians ended a three-game losing skid, their third such streak of the season against Detroit, and was nine games in back of the Kansas City Royals in the division and five and a half games behind Minnesota and New York for a Wild Card spot. Since that game, the Indians have gone 31-30 while outscoring their opponents by 20 runs. The Tigers have been the division’s worst team, 24-37 with a run differential of -87.
My, how some things have changed while others have remained alarmingly the same.
The Indians (64-68) have played themselves back into the American League Wild Card discussion, but they are still on the outskirts with much of their own fate in their own hands. They still have not been able to climb back to the .500 mark since April 10th and are further out of the playoff picture now than they were the last time these two clubs met.
The key to any chances the Indians have down the stretch will be in correcting the 18-31 record that they have in the AL Central, as all but one remaining series this year is within the division. During the week in the penultimate series out of the division this season, the Toronto Blue Jays got the best of the Tribe, beating them in two of three. The Indians took the opener, 4-2, on Monday as a pair of RBI hits in the seventh gave the Indians the lead for good in their rare defeat of David Price. The Jays walked off a winner on Tuesday as a two-run homer off of Bryan Shaw in the tenth by Ryan Goins evened the series. Toronto claimed the finale, 5-1, as Indians hitters could not figure out knuckler R.A. Dickey.
The Tigers (61-72) dropped two of three to the Kansas City Royals this week. After holding on for a 6-5 win on Tuesday night, they were crushed 12-1 and 15-7 in the other two games of the series.
PITCHING PROBABLES and GAME NOTES
Tomlin starts the game in place of Corey Kluber, who was scratched with a right hamstring strain. He has a career 2-5 record against Detroit with a 7.67 ERA. Lobstein jumps off of the 60-day disabled list and right back into action. He has been victorious in both of his starts against the Indians this season.
Salazar stepped up in a playoff atmosphere in his last outing on Monday, limiting the Jays to two runs in the Indians’ 4-2 victory, earning him win number 12 of the season. He is just 28 strikeouts short of hitting the 200 mark this season. He is 2-3 with a 3.86 ERA in eight career starts against Detroit, including one complete game. Simon went 1-3 in August with a 7.20 ERA. “The Big Pasta” is 4-2 in ten career games against the Indians with a 3.99 ERA.
Sunday, 9/6, 1:08 PM ET – TBA vs. RHP Justin Verlander (3-6, 3.40)
The Indians had yet to name a starter for Sunday’s game (at the time of this preview) after the rotation shuffle due to Kluber’s injury. Verlander is 18-16 in 41 career starts against Cleveland with a 4.41 ERA. He earned the win in the Tigers’ victory over the Royals on Tuesday, allowing four runs, but just two of which were earned. In his previous start, he threw a complete game one-hitter over the Los Angeles Angels.
TV – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; Fox Sports Detroit
Radio – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; 97.1 The Ticket (Detroit)
AL WILD CARD STANDINGS
TEAM W-L PCT. WCGB STRK L10
New York 74-58 .561 +4.0 W2 6-4
Texas 70-62 .530 – W2 7-3
Minnesota 69-64 .519 -1.5 L1 7-3
Los Angeles 67-66 .504 -3.5 W2 4-6
Tampa Bay 66-67 .496 -4.5 L1 4-6
Cleveland 64-68 .485 -6.0 L2 7-3
Baltimore 64-69 .481 -6.5 W1 2-8
The Tigers and Indians have been rivals dating all the way back to 1901. Detroit holds the advantage all-time, 1,106-1,053. The Indians are 73 games over .500 in those matchups at home, but are just 474-600 when playing in Detroit.
The Tigers have been a thorn in the side of the Indians for the last several years and this season has been no different. The Tribe is just 3-9 against them in 2015, but two of those wins did come at Comerica Park, where they are 2-4 on the season.
The last time the two clubs met in June, the Indians dropped two of three, winning the series finale.
ON THE MEND
Shawn Armstrong (RP) – recalled from Triple-A Columbus (September 1)
Carlos Carrasco (SP) – 15-day disabled list (August 22) – right shoulder bursitis
Gavin Floyd (SP) – activated from 60-day disabled list (September 1)
Giovanni Soto (RP) – contract purchased from Triple-A Columbus (September 4)
Nick Hagadone (RP) – 60-day disabled list (July 8) – recovery from July 2015 left elbow surgery
T.J. House (SP) – 60-day disabled list (September 4) – left shoulder inflammation
Chris Johnson (UTL) – activated from 15-day disabled list (September 1)
Corey Kluber (SP) – day-to-day – right hamstring strain (September 4)
Michael Martinez (UTL) – contract purchased from Triple-A Columbus (September 4)
Carlos Moncrief (OF) – designated for assignment; was on 40-man roster, playing in Akron (September 4)
Jose Iglesias (SS) – day-to-day – bruised right middle finger (September 3)
Guido Knudson (RP) – optioned to Triple-A Toledo (September 4)
Kyle Lobstein (SP) – activated from 60-day disabled list (September 3)
Dixon Machado (SS) – recalled from Triple-A Toledo (September 4)
Joe Nathan (CL) – 60-day disabled list (May 8) – recovery from April 2015 Tommy John surgery
Daniel Norris (SP) – 15-day disabled list (August 20) – right oblique strain
Anibal Sanchez (SP) – 15-day disabled list (August 20) – right rotator cuff inflammation
BY THE NUMBERS
Michael Brantley leads the Indians with a .378 batting average and .449 on-base percentage since the All-Star break. He is the team leader in that span in doubles with 16, is tied for the team lead in RBI with 28, and is second in homers with seven.
Carlos Santana is hitting .255 in the second half with a .352 OBP. He is third on the team in second half homers with five and is third in RBI with 27, just one off the pace set by Brantley and Yan Gomes.
Gomes leads the club with his eight homers and 28 RBI since the break.
Francisco Lindor has kept his batting average over the .300 mark for the last week and he is now hitting .308 after 70 games while throwing his name into the AL Rookie of the Year competition. In addition to his average at the plate and his effort in the field, he has 15 doubles, seven homers, and has driven in 31 while scoring 33 times. Despite spending the first few months of the year in the minors, he is fourth on the team in hits with 86, trailing Brantley (148), Jason Kipnis (147), and Santana (105).
After achieving the number of at bats to become qualified, Miguel Cabrera now has a substantial lead in the batting title race in the AL with a .361 average and .460 OBP. Brantley (.321) trails him by 40 points for the batting crown and is third for the top OBP mark, 67 points behind Cabrera.
J.D. Martinez, renown Indians destroyer over the last several seasons, leads the Tigers with 34 homers and 87 RBI this year (Cabrera is second with 17 and 67, respectively). His 14 homers against the Indians in his career are the most he has hit against any one club and as many as he has hit during interleague play in nearly twice as many games played. What is the next closest tally of homers he has against another opponent? Each of the remaining AL Central rivals, against whom he has six homers apiece.
Designated hitter Victor Martinez has had a tough season at the plate, hitting just .235 with nine homers and 53 RBI in 100 games this season.
Friday marks the 29 year anniversary of the death of former Tigers slugger and Indians general manager Hank Greenberg. He was 75 years old when passing away on that date in 1986.
Greenberg spent a dozen seasons playing for the Tigers, but missed three full seasons due to his involvement with the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. He won the league MVP award in 1935 and again in 1940.
Following two seasons in Detroit after his return from the war, he was bought by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He hit 25 homers and drove in 74 while leading the National League in walks in what would be his final season in the Majors. He came to camp with Cleveland for the 1948 season, but moved into the front office, eventually working his way up to general manager of the club. He was part of the Baseball Hall of Fame class of 1956.
The Indians will move along to the Windy City to conclude their road trip with three games against the Chicago White Sox beginning Labor Day. The Tigers, meanwhile, will host the Tampa Bay Rays for three straight beginning Monday afternoon.
Photo: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images