The battle for the first half Central Division champion will take place over four games in Cleveland starting on July 5th. If this was the advanced A level, a play-off spot would be on the line, but since this is real baseball it is just another series between Central Division foes. Since it is a four game series, if the two teams don't split (the most likely outcome), the winner will take a strong advantage into the All-Star Break.
The series actually sets up really well for a split as the the top two pitchers for each team will alternate in starts with Masterson and Kluber going in games one and three with Sanchez and Scherzer throwing games two and four for the Tigers.
Game 1: Friday, July 5th, 7:05 PM EDT
Rick Porcello, RHP, 4-6, 5.21 ERA vs Justin Masterson, RHP, 10-6, 3.48 ERA
Masterson is coming off his best start of the year and his third complete game shut out of the season. He just got through a tough stretch where he lost three games in five starts after starting the year 8-3. His tremendous game agaist the White Sox appears to be a turn around, but the Tigers are no White Sox. Instead of playing the worst team in the Majors, he will now be facing one of the top offenses in the league. Masterson should be up to the task as this could be his best opportunity to prove himself to the league as one of the AL's elite starters.
Game 2: Saturday, July 6th, 4:05 PM EDT
Anibal Sanchez, RHP, 6-5, 2.76 ERA vs Carlos Carrasco, RHP, 0-3, 8.17 ERA
Not just has Sanchez been the Tigers second best starter this year and very worthy of a place in the All-Star Game, but Carlos Carrasco has been nothing but terrible all season. As such, this game sets up extremely well for the Tigers. To make matters worse, the Indians will need to send a reliever back to AAA (probably Joe Martinez, but it should be Rich Hill) to activate Carrasco, meaning they won't have a long reliever if Carrasco fails to make it five innings. If Terry Francona wants to rest his starters at some point during this long stretch of consecutive games before the All-Star break, this would be a good game to roll over and take it.
Game 3: Sunday, July 7th, 1:05 PM EDT
Doug Fister, RHP, 6-5, 3.80 ERA vs Corey Kluber, RHP, 6-5, 4.33 ERA
This game is the biggest toss-up of the bunch and the Indians will need to pull out all the stops to take out Fister and the Tigers. Proving he is a normal human being, Kluber has had trouble with Miguel Cabrera this season, giving up home runs in each of his two starts against Detroit this year, both of which ended up being losses. A general theme this series will be working around Cabrera who is a perennial MVP candidate and currently one of two American League players competing for the award.
Game 4: Monday, July 8th, 7:05 PM EDT
Max Scherzer, RHP, 13-0, 3.09 ERA vs Scott Kazmir, LHP, 4-4, 4.86 ERA
Scherzer has made 17 starts in 2013 and won 13, including his last six in a row. He is currently on a streak not matched by the greatest pitchers in the history of baseball. It has to come to an end at some point and why not now against the Indians and Scott Kazmir. Kazmir has pitched three good starts in a row after starting the season a little shakey. He hasn't faced the Tigers yet this year, so may maintain the element of surprise against hitters who haven't played against him in at least two years. The Indians have actually fared better than many teams against Scherzer, scoring four runs against the star pitcher in eight innings in May. One warning, look out for a ton of strike outs as both starters are among the greatest in the game today at getting swings and misses and both teams are prone for the K.