A four game series turned to three due to some rain, but the Indians still managed a series win, using a Nick Swisher walk off grand slam in the tenth to clinch it. Cleveland has had many offensive struggles of late, some of them due to Swisher, but are still getting better. Carlos Santana had a great series against the Angels and as a bonus, the Michael Brantley will be returning on Saturday.
The last time the Indians faced Detroit, the Tigers were solidly in first place and on a six game winning streak with a 15-2 run. The Indians swept them in three and things have just been falling apart ever since. They have since went 2-5-1 in series since, beating only the Red Sox and Twins. Now, the streaking Royals are in first and the winner of this series will be in second place in the AL Central.
Game 1: Friday, June 20th, 7:05 PM EDT (tickets)
Rick Porcello, RHP, 8-4, 4.03 ERA vs Corey Kluber, RHP, 6-4, 3.35 ERA
The Tigers are floundering and Porcello has not been immune. After posting a 3.49 ERA in May, he has a 5.21 in three starts in June, the worst start coming against the White Sox when he gave up six runs in five innings. He hasn’t faced the Indians this year, but has been decent against them in the past in 19 starts. One player who could use Porcello to boost his numbers is Carlos Santana, who has batted .324/.378/.647 against him in 38 plate appearances.
The Indians will use a rain out and a couple scheduled off days next week to go to a four man pitching staff for the present. Instead of Zach McAllister pitching today, Corey Kluber and the rest of the staff will be moved up a day. After pitching at least 6.2 innings in each May start, Kluber hasn’t hit that mark a single time in June. Similarly, he gave up more than two runs just once last month, but has done so twice this month, including his worst start of the season against Kansas City. In his last appearance against Detroit, Kluber was right in the middle of his hot streak and he allowed just three runs in seven innings.
Game 2: Saturday, June 21st, 7:15 PM EDT (tickets)
Justin Verlander, RHP, 6-7, 4.98 ERA vs Trevor Bauer, RHP, 2-3, 4.20 ERA
Much has been said of the demise of Justin Verlander as he is currently in the worst stretch of his career. After a stellar April where he didn’t allow more than two runs in any start until 4/29, he has raised his ERA from 2.48 on May 1st to almost 5.00 at the present time. In each of his last two starts he has allowed seven runs in six or less innings and he has given up at least five in six of his last seven. Unlike some of the Tigers pitchers who have struggled because they faced a red hot Royals team, Verlander’s downfall has been a trend long coming and he is not likely to fix things this time around against the Tribe.
Bauer did the minimum last time out, walking four batters in a game for the first time this season (he walked his first four batters faced in his first start as an Indian) and still was good enough to get the win, throwing over 120 pitches and working into the seventh inning. It was his most mature performance to date, working harder because he didn’t have his greatest stuff or control. He seemed to have turned a corner this season and if he has better control next time out, he should be able to keep up with Verlander.
Game 3: Sunday, June 22nd, 1:05 PM EDT (tickets)
Max Scherzer, RHP, 8-3, 3.84 ERA vs Josh Tomlin
With Verlander struggling, Scherzer is without a doubt the best pitcher in Detroit’s rotation, but even he has had his issues. After allowing just nine runs in April and 15 in May, Scherzer gave up 10 in his last start against Kansas City. This came immediately after a complete game shut out against the White Sox. This may have been a case of over work affecting a pitcher’s next start as the shut out was his third straight gave with at least 113 pitches. That should definitely not be a problem in his next start as his 93 pitches against KC was his lowest total all season. Expect Scherzer to be in top form next time out, with little resemblance of his ten run outing.
Tomlin had been the Indians most consistent pitchers from start to start, but allowed five runs for the first time this year in his last appearance. Even with the less-than-stellar appearance, Tomlin has still pitched into sixth in every single start this season, more than any other Indians starter can say. He has not started against the Tigers this year, but did face them in his one relief appearance. In that three inning, extra inning appearance, he struck out six and allowed one run on two hits while earning the win. Other than Kluber, the Indians couldn’t have a better starter scheduled to match up with the Tigers’ ace.
Who’s Hot? – Who’s Not?
Not only is Carlos Santana hot against Porcello, he is hot against everybody right now. In the past week, Santana has two home runs, 5 RBI and has reached base 13 times in six games. Similar to when he struggled early in the season, Santana continues to have great at bats, but unlike then, the hits are falling in. He hasn’t caught or played third since his return, so it could be the reduction in stress or a simple regression in BABIP, but either way, Santana is finally playing like he was expected to all season.
From May 7th through June 6th, Mike Aviles played in every single Indians game but one, batting .265 with 16 RBI and eight extra base hits. Since the return of Carlos Santana (and Jason Kipnis before him) Aviles has played in just five of the Indians last 12 games and has just one hit in 14 plate appearances. As has been seen with Lonnie Chisenhall and Ryan Raburn already this year, hitters are often more effective when they get to play every day and Aviles is no exception.
On Deck: The Indians have a day off Monday which they will use to head out west for two with the Diamondbacks, starting on Tuesday at 9:40 EDT.