When the Cleveland Indians took over first place in the AL Central on Monday, it had been nearly four years since that last happened. Their tenure alone at the top of the division lasted a whole three days.
The Indians look to reclaim the division lead and end a three-game losing streak when they continue a four-game series against the Detroit Tigers, who they are tied with at the top of the division. Prior to this week, Cleveland had not owned sole possession of the AL Central lead since April 19, 2002.
Cleveland (6-4) lost the first game of the series on Friday, 5-1, when Detroit’s Kenny Rogers shut down the Indians by allowing one run on seven hits through eight innings. Rogers struck out five and walked three while Jake Westbrook allowed five runs on nine hits in six innings.
Detroit (6-4) snapped a four-game losing skid, which followed five straight wins to open the season.
“Without a doubt, you are happy to be the one that lets you off a losing streak,” said Rogers, who was pitching in his first game with the Tigers at Comerica Park. “Hopefully there will be plenty more to come.
Brandon Inge and Curtis Granderson hit back-to-back home runs in the third inning. Inge also homered in the fourth to help the Tigers jump out to a 5-0 lead. Inge’s home runs came a day after manager Jim Leyland left the third baseman out of the lineup. He was in an 0-for-9 slump before sitting out on Thursday.
“Evidently he didn’t like it too well,” Leyland said. “I’ll rest him again if I know I’m going to get two homers the next night.”
With C.C. Sabathia on the disabled list, the Indians have called up Fausto Carmona to take the mound on Saturday. During spring training he went 1-0 with 0.75 ERA in four games. In his final outing he pitched three scoreless innings and struck out four New York Yankees batters.
Carmona was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2000. He went 13-9 with a 3.68 ERA during two minor league stops last season.
His biggest task could be trying to contain red-hot Tigers first baseman Chris Shelton. Shelton, who leads the league with seven home runs and 14 RBIs, had a double and a triple on Friday.
“He’s in one of those stretches right now,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “He’s seeing the ball real well and putting good swings on it.”
Shelton is batting .512 for the season.
The Tigers counter Carmona with Jeremy Bonderman. Bonderman is 4-7 lifetime against the Indians with a 6.30 ERA. He last faced the Indians on August 29, 2005, when he gave up nine runs on nine hits in 3 1-3 innings pitched.
Detroit’s win on Friday was just the second win in its last 10 meetings with the Indians.