Detroit Tigers (23-19) at Cleveland Indians (26-17)
Series 15, Games 44 and 45
Progressive Field: 95, Pitcher's Park
Weather: Looks like a chance of thunderstorms with temps in the mid 80's.
Tuesday, May 21 7:05 EDT (STO)
Max Scherzer (5-0, 3.98) vs. Corey Kluber (3-2, 5.40)
This series sets up well for the Tribe as they are 2.5 games ahead of the Tigers in the Central Division. This means that regardless of the results of the short series, the Indians will still be in first, but they also have the opportunity to move to 4.5 games up. Both pitching match-ups favor the Tigers, but the Indians were able to split two games in the last Tigers series with these same match-ups. Kluber will be playing for his roster spot again with Brett Myers scheduled to return within the next two times through the rotation. If he is a bad as he was last time against Detroit, this could be his last start with either Myers or Trevor Bauer returning. While a fifth place team can tolerate a replacement level pitcher allowing three or more runs in a five inning start, a first place team can't.
One major difference between this time and the last series is that Miguel Cabrera has turned on the afterburners and went from being the hottest player in the Majors to a towering inferno. He now leads the league in AVG, hits, runs and RBI after a three home run, 5 RBI against the Rangers. He hit one out against Kluber last time they played, so giving him a few more intentional walks wouldn't be a bad idea.
Wednesday, May 22 7:05 EDT (STO)
Justin Verlander (4-4, 3.17) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (3-2, 5.31)
In the surprise of the series, last time around, Jimenez out-dueled the former Cy Young and Triple Crown award winner. Jimenez has had four straight good starts and is either turning things around or getting ready for his biggest drop off to date.
Facing Verlander will be a challenge of it's own for the Tribe hitters, but one they are familiar with to this point. They have already set a record by beating 7 (of 8 faced) former Cy Young Award winners before June 1st and Verlander will be a chance for another. He will be the first of these former winners to face the Indians a second time, but they shouldn't be too worried. Verlander has face the Indians more times than any other team in his career and no other team (that has faced him at least eight times) has been more successful. For some reason, Verlander loses all control against the Tribe and has hit almost twice as many Indians batters than any other team and has thrown seven more wild pitches against Cleveland than any other team. His 75 walks and 221 strike outs are also team highs. This patient and powerful Indians line-up matches up with Verlander better than just about any other team.
The Indians should be able to hit off either Tiger starter, irrelevant of their successes against the rest of the league, but the real question of who will win the series depends on how the Indians starters throw. Each has been successful this year, but they both have struggled at times as well. This is the end of the home stand and the start of a long, difficult stretch of baseball, so they will want to start off right.
Of course, after the improbable wins against the Mariners in the last series, it certainly seems like the baseball gods are looking down on the Tribe. If they keep getting breaks like those, they won't ever lose.