Sweeps weren’t very common for the Detroit Tigers during a dismal 2003.
Judging by their play in April, that may not be the case this season.
Detroit looks to complete its second sweep of the year when it closes a three-game set with the struggling Cleveland Indians.
The Tigers, who lost an AL-record 119 games last season, continued their remarkable turnaround with a 5-2 victory Saturday at Comerica Park on Rondell White’s three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth.
“That felt good, because I haven’t been hitting the ball well at home this year,” White said. “I was just trying to hit something in the air, and I got a ball I could drive.”
Bobby Higginson drove in a pair of runs and four relievers combined on four scoreless innings to lead Detroit to its 11th win in 18 games. The Tigers didn’t win their 11th game last season until May 23, when they were 11-35.
A win Sunday would give Detroit its second three-game sweep of the season. The Tigers had just two three-game sweeps in 2003.
“It’s a pleasure to be able to write the names of professional hitters into the lineup every day,” Tigers manager Alan Trammell said.
Through 18 games, the Tigers are hitting .292 and lead the AL with 117 runs scored.
Rodriguez has fared well in six games this season against Cleveland, batting .400 (10-for-25) with eight RBIs.
Detroit’s Brandon Inge, who played center field Saturday in place of flu-ridden Alex Sanchez, is batting .454 during a 10-game hitting streak. White has hit safely in nine consecutive games, going 16-for-41 (.390).
The Indians have lost four of five, allowing 46 runs.
Cleveland pitchers issued six walks Saturday after walking 11 during Friday’s 17-3 loss.
STANDINGS (through April 23): Indians - 4th place, 5 1/2 GB, AL Central. Tigers - 3rd place, 1 1/2 GB, AL Central.
INDIANS PROBABLE STARTER: Jake Westbrook (0-1, 1.46 ERA). This will be the first start of the season for Westbrook following two relief appearances. He was brilliant in his last outing Monday against Detroit, striking out seven over seven perfect innings in relief of starter Jeff D’Amico. Westbrook is 0-2 with a 4.46 ERA in seven career games against the Tigers.
TIGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Jason Johnson (1-3, 7.79 ERA). Since pitching very well in a 7-0 win at Toronto in his season debut, Johnson has allowed 15 runs and 20 hits in three starts, spanning 11 1-3 innings. The right-hander was reached for six runs and eight hits through five innings in a 6-4 loss at Minnesota Tuesday. He is 0-1 with a 6.16 ERA in seven career games, including five starts, against Cleveland.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Indians - Ron Belliard, .406 avg.; Matt Lawton, 5 HRs; 16 RBIs and 14 runs; Jody Gerut, 3 SBs. Tigers - Inge, .410 avg.; White, 5 HRs; 19 RBIs and 18 runs; Guillen, Sanchez and Rodriguez, 2 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Tigers, 4-2.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Indians - 3B Casey Blake missed his second straight game Saturday with a mild strain of his right hamstring. … SS Omar Vizquel needs to play in five more games to become the 15th shortstop in major league history to play in 2,000. … Cleveland called up RHP Kazuhito Tadano from Triple-A Buffalo and designated RHP David Lee for assignment Saturday. Tigers - OF White is 2-for-12 (.167) career against RHP Westbrook. … Detroit has won just one season series against Cleveland since 1993. … The Tigers have drawn three bases-loaded walks in the last two days after drawing seven all last season.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Indians- 2-7 on the road. Tigers - 5-3 at home.
INJURIES: Indians - 3B Blake (hamstring), day-to-day; C Josh Bard (groin), 15-day DL; OF Ryan Ludwick (knee), 15-day DL; RHP Jose Jimenez (ribs), 15-day DL; LHP Jason Stanford (forearm), 15-day DL; LHP Brian Tallet (elbow), 60-day DL; LHP Billy Traber (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Bob Wickman (elbow), 60-day DL. Tigers - OF Sanchez (flu), day-to-day; INF-OF Dmitri Young (leg), 15-day DL; RHP Fernando Rodney (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Lino Urdaneta (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Chris Spurling (elbow), 60-day DL.