It hasn’t always been pretty, but somehow, the Cleveland Indians are still hanging around in the American League Wild Card race.
After a positive 5-4 road trip, including series wins in their stops in Detroit and Chicago, the Indians (68-70) return home for their longest remaining homestand and will host the Tigers for four straight beginning Thursday. They may be running out of time on the 2015 season, but the club has not rolled over on the year. In fact, they have played at a far more inspired level after an injection of young prospects replaced the older, now discarded former talents that prevented their earlier arrivals at Progressive Field.
The Indians took their second straight series by winning the first and third games. Three homers off of Chris Sale on Monday gave the Indians a 3-2 win. A late comeback attempt fell short in a 7-4 defeat on Tuesday night. Power from unlikely places gave the Tribe a 6-4 win in the rubber match on Wednesday night.
The Tigers (64-75) did help the Indians bleak playoff chances by taking two of three in Detroit from the Tampa Bay Rays, one of the handful of teams standing between Cleveland and the second of two AL Wild Card spots. A late homer from Rajai Davis broke up a 4-4 tie and gave the Tigers a 5-4 win on Monday. Davis was hero again on Tuesday night as his sacrifice fly in the 13th inning gave Detroit an 8-7 walkoff win. Tigers pitching gave up four homers in the series finale on the way to an 8-0 shutout loss on Wednesday.
PITCHING PROBABLES and GAME NOTES
Simon, who has had his ups and downs this season, has saved all of his best games for the Indians. He is 4-0 this season in four starts with a 1.50 ERA against them, allowing just four runs over 24 innings of work. He worked seven scoreless innings in his last start, also against Cleveland, pairing two hits with his four walks surrendered. Pitching against the Tigers has not equated to fun for Salazar this season. He is 1-3 on the year against the division rivals in four starts, which includes his short outing his last time out when he allowed six runs and could not make it out of the fourth.
This isn’t your typical Verlander season. The 32-year-old right-hander lost much of the early portion of the year battling a triceps injury and has been inconsistent upon his return. He lost his last outing, allowing three runs over seven innings while Detroit was shut out, 4-0, by Cleveland. The loss dropped his all-time record against the Indians to 18-17 in 42 starts. He is 9-12 at Progressive Field. Anderson beat him last time out, allowing just two hits and two walks in seven innings in another strong outing since returning from the disabled list. He has allowed four earned runs and seven hits over the last 17 1/3 innings in three post-DL starts.
The 39-year-old lefty will make his fifth start of the season after being acquired in a minor trade from Toronto, where he had been pitching in Triple-A. He has been dealt losses in three of his four outings. Despite being in his 16th Major League season, it will just be the second career game for Wolf against the Indians and in Cleveland. He made a start for Philadelphia in 2002, allowing five runs in five innings in a loss, back when the park was still called Jacobs Field. Bauer evened his record on the year after allowing two runs on two hits in seven innings. Five walks, including three in the second, nearly became his undoing, but he held together for a solid effort in the end.
Boyd, a first-year 24-year-old left-hander, came to Detroit as part of the return for David Price from Toronto. He made two starts for the Jays and has appeared in eight games for the Tigers, including seven starts. Away from home, he is 0-2 in five games this season with a 10.00 ERA. He has never faced the Indians. Carrasco took the loss in his first game off of the disabled list on Tuesday after dealing with shoulder soreness. He lasted two and two-thirds innings, giving up four runs, all courtesy of a pair of home runs. He is 4-6 in his career with a 6.29 ERA against Detroit, but is 2-1 this season with a slightly improved ERA of 5.00.
TV – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and Fox Sports Detroit (Thursday, Friday, Sunday); Fox Sports 1 (Saturday)
Radio – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; 97.1 The Ticket (Detroit)
AL WILD CARD STANDINGS
TEAM W-L PCT. WCGB STRK L10
New York 77-61 .558 +4.0 L2 6-4
Texas 73-65 .529 – L1 6-4
– – – – – – – – –
Minnesota 72-67 .518 -1.5 W1 6-4
Los Angeles 70-69 .504 -3.5 W1 5-5
Cleveland 68-70 .493 -5.0 W1 6-4
Tampa Bay 68-71 .489 -5.5 W1 5-5
Baltimore 65-71 .482 -6.5 W2 4-6
Seattle 67-73 .479 -7.0 W1 6-4
Chicago 66-72 .478 -7.0 L1 6-4
The Indians are 1,055-1,107 against the Tigers since 1901. They have a healthy advantage when playing in Cleveland, earning a 579-506 record all-time.
Cleveland has won three of their last four from Detroit, including taking two of three at Comerica Park last week. They will have to reverse their fortunes against the Motor City Kitties at Progressive Field this season, where they are just 1-5. The Tigers have already won the season series, holding a 10-5 advantage.
ON THE MEND
Carlos Carrasco (SP) – activated September 8 from the disabled list
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
Corey Kluber (SP) – day-to-day – right hamstring strain (September 4)
Daniel Fields (OF) – designated for assignment (September 8)
Jose Iglesias (SS) – out indefinitely – non-displaced fracture of right middle finger
Ian Krol (RP) – recalled from Triple-A Toledo (September 8)
Jefry Marte (IF) – recalled from Triple-A Toledo (September 8)
Victor Martinez (DH) – day-to-day – undisclosed illness
Steven Moya (OF) – recalled from Triple-A Toledo (September 8)
Joe Nathan (RP) – 60-day disabled list (April 7) – 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
Josh Wilson (IF) – contract purchased from Triple-A Toledo (September 8)
BY THE NUMBERS
Michael Brantley is the leader in second half hitting in the AL with a .363 average. He is tied for the MLB lead in doubles since the All-Star break with 19 and is the regular season leader with 43, four more than the next closest competitor. He is third in the AL in on-base percentage with a .388 mark.
Francisco Lindor is right behind Brantley for second half batting numbers, hitting .354 in his torrid rookie campaign. He has put himself right on the list for AL Rookie of the Year consideration with his solid defensive play, all-out hustle, and well-rounded offensive numbers, highlighted by his .309 batting average, eight homers, two triples, and 17 doubles. He is just seven hits shy of reaching the 100 mark this season.
Jason Kipnis is fourth in the MLB in doubles with 38. A tough series back home in Chicago dropped his average three more points to .308. He continues to trail Brantley in OBP by seven points with a .381 mark, fourth-best in the AL.
After returning from his extended stay on the disabled list, Miguel Cabrera has since seen enough time in the batter’s box to take over the AL lead in the batting race, once fought between Brantley and Kipnis. Cabrera is hitting .351 on the season with a .452 OBP. He is second on the team amongst active members of the club in homers (17) and RBI (68).
J.D. Martinez, who tends to make his presence known against the Indians, is the team leader in both power number and run production, hitting 36 homers while driving in 91. He also leads the club with 154 strikeouts this season, the second most in the AL.
Giovanni Soto, the 24-year-old left-hander added to the Indians bullpen last week, was a 21st round draft pick by the Tigers in 2009. He had been drafted the season prior by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 46th round, but did not sign.
Soto is auditioning for an opening in Terry Francona’s bullpen for 2016. The trade of Marc Rzepczynski to the San Diego Padres for Abraham Almonte and the injury to Nick Hagadone depleted the Indians’ southpaw reserves this season, leading to a return of Kyle Crockett and a late-season opportunity for Soto.
Soto was acquired by Cleveland prior to the 2010 trade deadline when the Indians sent infielder Jhonny Peralta and cash to Detroit. Soto had spent time in the minors as a starter for the Tribe but has started just two games since 2012. He threw a no-hitter for the Akron Aeros on July 15th, 2012, when he allowed one unearned run, walked three, and struck out six in a nine-inning 2-1 gem over the Altoona Curve.
The Indians will continue their long stay in Cleveland by hosting the Kansas City Royals for four straight, beginning Monday night. The Tigers will head to the land of 10,000 lakes to take on the Minnesota Twins for three to wrap up their brief road trip.
Photo: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast