If you haven’t noticed (as there have been a few exciting things going on in the city of Cleveland over the last month as the NBA Finals came to its conclusion over the weekend), the Cleveland Indians have been playing some very good baseball.
The Indians (41-30) bounced back from a three-game sweep against the Royals in Kansas City with a resounding six straight wins during their last homestand of June. The team went 11-0 at home for the month and 15-6 so far in June, backed by two separate six-game winning streaks. They will have to play better on the road, where they are 18-18 for the season and 4-6 in June after a tough three-city, ten-day trip earlier in the month through Seattle, Anaheim, and KC. They continue to lead the American League Central Division by three games.
The Tigers (38-35) got three late wins (including a walk-off homer and a walk-off wild pitch in extras) in their series against the Seattle Mariners, sending them to a four-game sweep over one of the top clubs in the American League West. While they gained no ground on the Indians in that stretch, they did keep pace. They will host the Indians at Comerica Park for the second time this season, but they will need their bats to do more work. The Tigers hit just .181 against the Indians in the first two series the clubs have played against one another, Detroit’s worst mark against any one opponent so far in 2016.
Friday, 6/24, 7:10 PM ET – RHP Danny Salazar (8-3, 2.23 ERA) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (9-3, 3.24)
Sunday, 6/25, 4:10 PM ET – RHP Carlos Carrasco (2-2, 3.26) vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez (4-7, 5.97)
Saturday, 6/26, 1:10 PM ET – RHP Josh Tomlin (8-1, 3.32) vs. RHP Justin Verlander (7-5, 3.78)
Salazar will make his first start of the season against Detroit on Friday. He has struggled against them throughout his career, going 2-4 with a 4.55 ERA in ten starts and 1-3 with a 6.04 ERA in five starts last season. Carrasco will return to the scene of the crime, the site of his early season injury that limited him to just two and two-thirds scoreless innings in his only outing this season against the Tigers. He is 4-6 with a 6.02 ERA against Detroit in his career. Tomlin has tamed the Tigers twice this season, allowing three runs on 13 hits in 12 2/3 innings for a pair of victories.
Zimmermann has faced the Indians just once in his career, a no-decision in 2013 when he allowed six runs on eight hits in five innings while with the Washington Nationals. Sanchez got rocked twice by the Tribe this season, allowing eleven runs (ten earned) on 13 hits in nine and one-third innings while taking a pair of losses. He had been banished to the bullpen, but makes his return to the rotation on Saturday. Verlander will make career start #46 against Cleveland on Sunday. He is 18-20 against them with a 4.53 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in his career, but is just 1-6 over the last three seasons in ten starts with a 5.07 ERA.
TV (all games) – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio; Fox Sports Detroit
Radio (all games) – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; 97.1 The Ticket (Detroit)
Michael Brantley (LF) – 15-day disabled list (May 10) – right shoulder inflammation
Roberto Perez (C) – 60-day disabled list (May 1) – fractured right thumb
J.D. Martinez (OF) – 15-day disabled list (June 17) – fractured right elbow
Dustin Molleken (RP) – optioned to Triple-A Toledo (June 23)
Daniel Norris (SP) – recalled from Triple-A Toledo (June 23)
Warwick Saupold (RP) – 15-day disabled list (June 1) – right groin strain; on rehab assignment
Drew VerHagen (RP) – 60-day disabled list (May 23) – thoracic outlet syndrome in right shoulder
AL CENTRAL STANDINGS
The Indians have taken each of the first six matchups between the two clubs so far this season, outscoring the Tigers 38-12. The last time the two clubs played at the beginning of May, the Tigers were riding a five-game winning streak before the Indians swept them in three straight, sending Detroit into a spiral, losing eleven of 12.
Detroit still holds the edge all-time, posting a 1,108-1,063 record in 2,183 official contests. They are 601-479 when those games take place in Michigan.
UPTON HEATING UP
Justin Upton played the hero earlier in the week, hitting a pair of home runs and the game-winner in a walk-off victory. He leads the club with four homers and nine RBI in the last week while hitting .296. For the season, Upton is batting .236 with a .296 on-base percentage. Half of his season total of homers has come in the last week.
Steven Moya, the young outfielder who has bounced back and forth between Toledo and Detroit over the last couple of years, has hit the ball well in his return to the Tigers club. He has hit .375 over the last week with a pair of doubles, three home runs, and four RBI. In 15 games overall, he is hitting .321.
KINSLER AND MARTINEZ SCUFFLING
Second baseman Ian Kinsler has had a rough week, batting .172 with a .226 on-base percentage. He has five hits, all singles, has driven in one run, and has scored just one run himself. He has hit just .160 against Cleveland this season with a homer and two RBI.
Victor Martinez is hitting .231 in the same stretch, with six hits (all singles) and just one run batted in. He has the second-best batting average on the club this season against his former team, hitting .261 with a pair of doubles and a run batted in.
CABRERA STRUGGLED AGAINST TRIBE PITCHING
In six games this season (five starts), Miguel Cabrera has hit just .176 (3-for-17) against Indians pitching. All three hits were singles and he has failed to drive in a run against Cleveland this season.
Against the rest of baseball, it has been business as usual for Cabrera after a slow start to the year. He is hitting .301 with a team-leading 16 homers and trails just Kinsler (46) in RBI with 44.
CASTELLANOS HAS DONE THE OPPOSITE
Third baseman Nick Castellanos has had a surprising season, with a chunk of that success against Cleveland. In the six games between the two clubs so far, he has hit .400 with eight hits, including a double and a homer and six runs batted in. His average has fallen to the .300 mark and he is third on the team with 13 homers and 40 RBI.
CLEVELAND CRUSHING DETROIT PITCHING
The Indians have hit .307 against the Tigers this season with a .372 OBP. That average is their second-best against any one opponent this season (Cincinnati, .346).
LINDOR LOVES SIGHT OF MOTOR CITY KITTIES
Detroit may always hold a special place in the heart of Francisco Lindor, who made his Major League debut there last June and delivered a memorable first hit. Against the Tigers this season, he is hitting .391 (9-for-23) with seven singles, a double, a homer, three walks, and three RBI.
He has hit .350 with a .440 OBP over the last week with a double, a homer, and four RBI while drawing four walks.
Jason Kipnis has a .360 average and .407 OBP against Detroit this season, with all nine of his hits falling for singles. He is hitting .265 for the season with 13 doubles, two triples, nine homers, and 38 RBI.
GOMES THE RBI LEADER
It might be surprising to some that one of the Indians who has struggled the most overall this season has raked against the Tigers. Yan Gomes leads the club with seven RBI against Detroit and is hitting .313 for the year against Tigers pitching.
Over the last week, he has hit .375 with a pair of multi-hit games and has put together a modest four-game hitting streak.
The Tribe will continue its road show to close out the month of June by traveling to Atlanta to play their final series at Turner Field. Following the conclusion of that interleague series, the Indians will head north of the border to Toronto for a four-game set with the Blue Jays. The Tigers will stay right at home and host their third different team during this homestand as the Miami Marlins will come to town for two games beginning Tuesday night.
Photo: AP Photo/Paul Sancya