Sabathia has been struggling since getting the decision in a 3-1 victory over Baltimore on July 1. He posted a 10.19 ERA over his next four starts and then gave up three home runs in a 3-2 loss to Seattle on Sunday in his most recent outing.
“C.C. was much better,” Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said of the effort against the Mariners. “He threw downhill and commanded the ball. He did a good job with his changeup and his breaking ball. He was much better, and he gave us every opportunity to win that ballgame.”
Sabathia will look to continue his success against the Tigers. He is 8-4 with a 4.52 ERA in 15 career starts against Detroit, including a 4-0 mark with a 3.32 ERA in six starts at Comerica.
The Indians had won two straight and five of six before a demoralizing 4-3 loss to the New York Yankees on Thursday.
“Nobody is hanging their head,” outfielder Casey Blake said. “You like to win every game, expect to win every game, but taking two of three against a great team is a good thing.”
Travis Hafner returned to the lineup after missing 17 games with a concussion and went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI single. He leads the team with a .313 batting average, 18 homers and 64 RBIs.
“It’s all I could think about, even on the drive down,” Hafner said of his return. “I almost feel like I’m making my major league debut.”
Cleveland, which trails Oakland by 4 1/2 games in the race the AL wild card, went 10-7 without Hafner. Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta helped fill the offensive void left by Hafner’s absence. Martinez is hitting .409 since the All-Star break, while Peralta has 11 RBIs in his last 13 games.
“The guys did a great job of stepping up,” Wedge said. ”(Hafner) is our best hitter.”
Sean Douglass threw eight strong innings to lead Detroit to a 3-1 victory over Seattle on Thursday.