With a magic number of two, the Cleveland Indians look to wrap up the American League Central Division during a three-game weekend set with the Detroit Tigers.
The Indians (82-64) had a tough time during the week with Tampa Bay, dropping two of three again for the second time against the Rays this month. It continued season-long woes against the AL East, which has held the Indians to a 14-17 record against it this season. The Indians have crushed the AL Central, winning two out of every three contests to hold a 42-21 record over their division rivals. That mark is tied with the Atlanta Braves for the second-best interdivisional record and trails only the Boston Red Sox’s 48-19 performance against the East.
The Tigers (59-87) have struggled as expected under veteran manager Ron Gardenhire, working in his first season at the helm in Detroit with a very young and inexperienced lineup as the organization looks towards the future. They have dropped four straight games after claiming back-to-back series wins over the Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals. The Tigers will have to overcome a 23-49 record on the road this season to do some damage against the Indians this weekend; they are a more respectable 36-38 at home on the year.
PITCHING PROBABLES and NOTES
Boyd, 27, is coming off of one of his best starts of the season his last time out in a no-decision against St. Louis. He allowed just one run on a solo homer and two hits in total in seven innings of work, walking one and striking out eleven (a season-high). It will be his third start of the season against the Indians and his first since June 24, when he took the loss after getting shelled for six runs on eight hits in just three innings of work in his shortest start of the year. In his first start against them, he fared better in a no-decision on April 10, allowing a run on three hits in seven innings.
Tomlin jumps back into the starting rotation so that manager Terry Francona can get Corey Kluber some additional rest while lining him up for his start in the postseason. Tomlin has not started since May 15 and has made just five appearances in relief since rejoining the roster after a disabled list stint in July and August. He has worked as many as three innings since his return, but has also allowed runs to score in three of his five outings out of the bullpen. How long he is able to pitch in the contest is up in the air, leading to the likely chance that the first game of the series becomes a heavy bullpen game.
The 25-year-old Fulmer has fought through a tough season that included more than a month lost to the disabled list in July and August with a left oblique strain. He has gone 0-2 in four starts since returning to the Tigers rotation and has not earned a win since June 14 against the Twins. He last faced the Indians on June 8, taking a no-decision despite a quality seven innings of work, allowing a run on five hits with seven strikeouts. He has faced the Indians one other time this season in his worst showing of the year, allowing nine runs (six earned) on eight hits with just two strikeouts in three innings in his second loss of the campaign.
The 27-year-old Clevinger took a tough loss in his last start in Toronto on September 9, when he allowed three runs on four hits with two walks and nine strikeouts in a quality six innings of work. The loss was his first since July 28, which incidentally was in his last start against the Tigers. He was a tough-luck loser that time around as well, allowing two runs on five hits with a walk and eight strikeouts in five innings.
The veteran left-hander Liriano was not moved at the trade deadline as some would have expected at the beginning of the year, and a rough season on the rubber may have contributed to that. Sunday will mark his fifth start of the year against the Indians and he is still in search of his first win against them. He ended an eight-game losing streak and won his first game since April 28 in his first start of September against the Chicago White Sox, but control and defensive issues led to three unearned runs in his last start, a quality outing and loss against the Houston Astros on September 10.
The 23-year-old Bieber will make his second start of the season against Detroit and his 18th start overall. He has won four of his last five starts and has put up a 3.44 ERA in his three September outings. His last start against Tampa Bay was the best of his young career, as he allowed three hits and three walks while striking out eleven over six and two-thirds innings to earn his tenth win of his rookie year.
TV: Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio (all); Fox Sports Detroit (all)
Radio (all): Cleveland Indians Radio Network (CLE); 97.1 The Ticket (DET)
TRANSACTIONS and INJURY NOTES
Cody Anderson (P) – 60-day disabled list (2/25) – recovery from April 2017 UCL surgery; on rehab assignment
Trevor Bauer (SP) – 10-day disabled list (8/12) – right fibula stress fracture
Lonnie Chisenhall (OF) – 60-day disabled list (7/3) – strained left calf
Nick Goody (RP) – 60-day disabled list (5/3) – right elbow surgery
James Hoyt (RP) – 60-day disabled list (9/4) – right knee inflammation
Leonys Martin (OF) – 60-day disabled list (8/9) – non-baseball related issue
Tyler Naquin (OF) – 60-day disabled list (7/26) – right hip surgery
Danny Salazar (P) – out for season (3/26) – recovery from right shoulder exploratory surgery
Johnny Barbato (P) – outrighted to Triple-A Toledo (9/13)
Miguel Cabrera (1B) – 60-day disabled list (6/13) – left biceps surgery
Niko Goodrum (2B) – day-to-day 99/12) – right quad contusion
Blaine Hardy (P) – day-to-day (9/10) – left elbow tendinitis
John Hicks (1B) – 60-day disabled list (8/8) – right groin strain
Jose Iglesias (SS) – 10-day disabled list (8/30) – lower abdominal strain
Pete Kozma (UTL) – contract purchased from Triple-A Toledo (9/14)
Artie Lewicki (P) – 60-day disabled list (8/14) – right elbow inflammation; will need Tommy John surgery
TIGERS NEWS AND NOTES
The Tigers have hit just .194 on the season against the Indians with a .245 on-base percentage and a .298 slugging mark. Detroit has struck out 149 times in 563 plate appearances (26.5%) against Cleveland pitching this year.
Nicholas Castellanos is the team’s leader among qualified players with a .294 average on the season. He has gone deep 21 times and driven in 81 runs in a second straight strong season in the Tigers outfield. The 26-year-old has put up back-to-back 20-homer seasons for the first time in his six-year career and his RBI production is tops on the Tigers. That damage has not come easily against the Indians this season – he is hitting .175 in 15 games with three doubles, one homer, and six runs batted in while striking out 19 times in 61 plate appearances.
This could be the last trip to Cleveland for longtime Indians switch-hitter Victor Martinez. The 39-year-old has appeared in 126 games for Detroit this season, putting up a .247/.295/.348 slash with 18 doubles, nine homers, and 52 RBI. If he fails to homer again this season, it will mark the first time that he has not reached double digits in long balls since an injury-shortened 2008 season with the Indians, one season before the team dealt him to the Boston Red Sox.
Jeimer Candelario has been the least productive of the Tigers hitters against the Indians this season, hitting just .120 in 12 games with three doubles, a homer, and three RBI while matching Castellanos’ 19 strikeouts while doing so in nine fewer trips to the plate. He is second on the Tigers this season with 18 homers and is third in RBI with 51.
TRIBE BY THE NUMBERS
The Indians have hit .274 on the season against Tigers pitching with a .337 on-base percentage. They have homered 28 times off of Detroit’s staff, compared to the nine hit by the Tigers off of Cleveland’s staff.
Michael Brantley has been on fire over the last month, hitting .341 with a .398 on-base percentage in that stretch with six doubles, two homers, and nine RBI. He has continued a .333 average in 26 games in August with a .364 mark in his first nine games this month. He has been the best of the Tribe regulars in home hitting, providing a .333/.378/.508 slash with 23 doubles, one triple, seven homers, and 48 RBI when enjoying some home cooking. He is 21-for-63 (.333) off of the Tigers this season in 15 games.
Yan Gomes is hitting .324 in the last 30 days with two doubles, three homers, and five RBI with 22 hits in an 18-game span. The All-Star hit .333 in August and has continued with a .281 mark so far in September.
Brandon Guyer has cashed in on additional playing time in September by hitting .292 with a .346 on-base percentage while driving in four runs and scoring three.
Melky Cabrera has hit .412 off of Tigers’ pitching in five games against them this season with a double, a homer, and four RBI.
Jose Ramirez’s second half woes have included a .168 average in the last 30 days with just six extra base hits in 26 games played. Despite the issues with the stick, he has drawn a .298 on-base percentage with a team-leading 16 walks in the last month. He has mashed against Detroit this season, hitting .296 with a .458 OBP and a .593 slugging mark with two doubles, one triple, four homers, and nine RBI. He has drawn more walks (17) than reached on hits (16) against Detroit this year. He could benefit from a return to Progressive Field, where he has put up a .296/.427/.601 slash on the year with 15 doubles, 19 homers, and 58 RBI in 70 games. He enters the series one RBI short of his first 100-RBI season.
WELCOME TO CLEVELAND
Series two of the three-series homestand will continue on Tuesday when the Chicago White Sox come to town for three games with the Tribe after an off day for Cleveland Monday. The Tigers will return to Comerica Park for the final homestand of their season, beginning with three games against the Twins before four with the Royals.
Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images