Series Preview – Detroit Tigers vs. Cleveland Indians
Well, I didn’t get the sweep against the Pirates, and I have to start second-guessing Smyly, it would seem. On the other hand, Verlander is a god, and Scherzer certainly found some sort of disgustingly awesome groove. It was a good rebound from that embarrassing series loss against the Twins. And, as luck would have it, the Tigers will be able to exact revenge on the Twins this weekend. But before that happens, an even more important series will be taking place.
The Indians have a two and a half game lead over the White Sox, and a three-game lead over the Tigers. With a three-game series on the horizon, there is at least a chance to go into the weekend tied with Cleveland at the top, or at the very least put another game’s dent into the lead. So what does the series have in store for both teams?
Tuesday – 5/22/12
Rick Porcello vs. Ubaldo Jimenez
Porcello really needs a stellar outing to get back on track. In his last two outings, he threw too many pitches too early in the game, and has only pitched nine innings in two games. Hopefully a trip to Progressive Field will be what he needs to get everything worked out. In his career, Porcello is 5-1 against Cleveland, with a fairly respectable 3.86 ERA. How he’s managed that, I don’t know, because a lot of the current Indians’ roster has hit him well. He must have pitched well against former Indians, or be benefitting from a lot of run support anytime Cleveland is the opponent. Let’s hope that trend continues.
Ubaldo Jimenez was, not too long ago, a rising star with the Colorado Rockies. He turned a corner in 2010, winning 19 games. The Rockies were able to ride that wave into 2011, and dealt Jimenez to the Indians. Since then, Jimenez has been less than stellar. He struggled to adapt to A.L. hitters, and gave up a lot of earned runs early on. He seems to have righted the ship this year so far, and he’s close to the .500 average he put up before 2010. But his ERA is still elevated, and he still isn’t the pitcher that the Rockies and Indians hoped he would be. Career versus the Tigers, he’s less than fantastic, as well, with a 2-5 record and a 6.18 ERA. It doesn’t help that there are at least nine players on Detroit’s roster that seemingly rake against him.
Wednesday – 5/23/12
Doug Fister vs. Zach McAllister
Doug Fister has been suffering this season. First it was his abdominal injury, forcing him to miss a couple starts. Now he’s getting flashbacks from Seattle, with a serious lack of run support for his pitching performances. He’s only 0-2 right now, but I have no doubt he’s starting to feel like another 3-12 season is going to be upon him. The Tigers’ offense needs to turn that around. Now. Fister is too good of a pitcher to be losing every game by one or two runs, especially with all the other talents that he’s surrounded by in the lineup and bullpen. In his career, Fister is only 3-2, with a 2.31 ERA against Cleveland. What Detroit fans wouldn’t give to see him go eight innings with zero earned runs. Especially in a game that could prove crucial to breaking that .500 barrier and closing the gap with the Indians considerably.
The Tigers saw Zach McAllister for a whole five innings in 2011. Two at-bats were the most that anyone got against him (except Austin Jackson, who had three). Don Kelly is batting .500 against him (1/2), so expect him to be leading off, playing a key position, and frustrating every competent fan out there. Then the rest of the lineup will act like they’ve never seen a baseball before, and go hitless through six innings.
Thursday – 5/24/12
Justin Verlander vs. Justin Masterson
Let’s be honest: Justin Verlander can’t be stopped. Granted, eventually he’s going to go up against someone who has a better night and walk away with a loss. But that’s not going to stop him from being unbelievably, ridiculously amazing. The tension and excitement last weekend with one out in the ninth inning was amazing. As a side note, I hate Josh Harrison with a burning passion. Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball right now, and he’s proving that the Cy Young/MVP season of 2011 was no fluke. If he continues pitching even half as well as he has been, Josh Hamilton is going to have some serious competition for MVP come season’s end. His career numbers against Cleveland have been a mixed bag, though, with a 13-11 record and 4.82 ERA. So he’s struggled a little bit. Despite that I don’t think he’ll have too hard of a time against them in this game.
Justin Masterson is struggling right now. At 1-3, he’s one of the few Indians who isn’t contributing to this division lead. Which is unfortunate for him, because he came out of the gate last season on fire with a 5-0 record through the month of April. His luck doesn’t get any better in this game, as he’s 0-4 lifetime against the Tigers, with an ERA of 5.14. When you’re pitching opposite a guy like Verlander, you can’t have numbers like that. It’s the ultimate recipe for disaster. With any luck, the Tigers can take advantage of his poor numbers and knock him out of the game early. Oh, and hopefully Verlander can throw a no-hitter.
Game 1: Tigers
Game 2: Tigers
Game 3: Tigers
Final: Tigers win the series 3-0
I know I’ve predicted sweeps before, and they’ve yet to come to pass. The Tigers have not been up to the level they’re capable of yet this season, and it’s a little disconcerting to know in the back of your mind that they could easily drop a game or two (or three) that the numbers suggest they’d win by a wide margin. But with the struggles of Jimenez and the amazing talent of Fister and Verlander, I’m going to have to go with the numbers, and give the Tigers the sweep. I hope to be heading into the weekend tied with the Indians.