Series Preview – Detroit Tigers vs. Cleveland Indians
The Tigers spent the weekend completing a sweep of the Chicago White Sox and taking control of first place in the American League Central. Now they must hold strong to secure a place in the big show at the beginning of October. To do that, they’ll need to go through a division rival, and team that should be beatable without much issue, the Cleveland Indians. While Cleveland started strong out of the shoot, they’ve faded as of late, losing their last four games in a row (3-7 overall in their last ten) and falling to four games behind the Tigers in the division. If Cleveland wants the division to be seen as a three-team race, then this is the weekend to do it.
Tuesday – 7/24/12
Doug Fister vs. Ubaldo Jimenez
Doug Fister looks like the Doug Fister that Detroit remembers from the final stretch of 2011. He’s commanding his pitches again, pitching to good contact that keeps the pitch count down and induces outs, and simply dominating the last two teams he faced (which included an Angels team that was red hot coming into Comerica Park). After injury set him back early in the season, it was almost as if the first half was more like his spring training than part of the season. With any luck, he’ll continue to be the Fister that Tigers fans know and love. Although he currently sits at 4-6, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine him getting double digit wins before the season is over. He can start by nailing down a win against Cleveland in Game One. He’s had limited success in the win department against the Tribe, but his ERA is phenomenal. At 2.35, it’s going to be difficult for the Indians to break open the game. They’ll have to hope that Shin-Soo Choo brings his bat to the game, since he currently hits .500 against Doug.
Ubaldo Jimenez continues to be nothing more than an average pitcher this year, currently sitting at 8-9 with a 5.24 ERA. He’s given up an enormous amount of runs in his last three starts, pitching only 14 innings with an ERA of 9.64. That’s exactly what the Tigers want to see, especially considering that they’ve averaged 5+ runs per game against him in his career. The top of the lineup will definitely be out to crush him early and often, with Miguel Cabrera hungry for that first home run on the path to 400.
Wednesday – 7/25/12
Max Scherzer vs. Derek Lowe
Max continued a string of impressive starts by both himself and Tigers pitchers his last time out, moving him to 9-5, with an ERA that is quickly approaching a very low, very good level. He’s pitched 19 innings in three starts, and his ERA is 2.84. Despite taking a tough No Decision against the Orioles right after the All-Star break, Scherzer is continuing to look like the dominant pitcher that everyone thought he could be when acquired from Arizona. He’ll need every ounce of the confidence and skill he’s shown recently, too, because Cleveland has been a team that’s baffled him most of the time. He’s 4-4 with a 5.44 ERA against the Tribe, with Travis Hafner and Shin-Soo Choo providing the most damage. He’ll need the offense to bring the bats if he’s going to stand a chance of staying in the game late this time out.
Luckily for Max (and the Tigers as a whole), Derek Lowe has gone from phenomenal to terrible in no time at all. Over the first half of his season, Lowe went 6-2. Over the second half, he’s 2-6 with an 8.31 ERA. That is exactly what you want to see if you’re a Detroit batter. He has zero command right now, the bats aren’t showing up for him on offense anymore, and he’s turned into a mediocre pitcher. With the offensive power the Tigers have pouncing all over Lowe should be no problem at all.
Thursday – 7/26/12
Justin Verlander vs. Zach McAllister
There’s not much more that can be said about Justin Verlander. After starting slowly again this season, he’s quickly risen near the top of the league at 11-5 with a 2.42 ERA. Even though Weaver, Sale, and others are still pitching well, there are (roughly) 14 starts left for Justin, and he will probably get up near 20 wins before it’s all said and done, easily in the conversation for the Cy Young Award. Hell, there are still enough starts left for him to put up the same numbers as last season, even though it’ll be extremely hard to do. He can start by nailing down win number 12 in the series finale with Cleveland. With any luck, he’ll be pitching to give the Tigers the series sweep, an 8-game win streak, and put Cleveland closer and closer away from even dreaming of competing for the division. His career numbers may be a bit elevated against the Indians, but I still wouldn’t bet against him.
Zach McAllister is possibly the only pitcher in the Indians’ rotation that is still performing well. In just 11 innings against the Tigers, he’s held them to a 1.59 ERA. Verlander can work with one or two runs, but he’d really like Detroit to put up a solid score against the Indians.
Game 1: Tigers
Game 2: Tigers
Game 3: Tigers
Final: Tigers win series 3-0
Detroit seems to have finally hit its stride, while the Indians are starting to flounder. Now is the perfect time to lay into the division, open the gap between one more team, and make a push towards the finish line. The way Fister, Scherzer, and Verlander have performed over the last month certainly makes it a probable scenario. The Indians’ rotation has just struggled too much lately to look at all threatening, and the Tigers’ offense has made everyone (including some of the best in the league) look like rookies right now. It’s going to be a loooooooong week for Indians fans.