The Detroit Tigers still own the best record in the majors, but they have watched their divisional lead diminish over the last two weeks.
The Tigers look to turn things around when they open a three-game series against a team they have dominated, the Cleveland Indians, at Jacobs Field on Friday.
Detroit (81-47) is coming off its most lopsided defeat of the season, a 10-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Thursday. After outscoring the White Sox 11-1 to win the first two games of the series, the Tigers were outscored 17-5 in the final two contests—both losses.
Detroit had a 10-game AL Central lead on Aug. 7, but after losing 11 of 16 games it leads Chicago by just 5 1/2 games.
“We’ve just got to win enough games,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “If we play good enough to accomplish something, we’ll find out. I think we’re very good. I like our team very much.”
Before Detroit began its slide, it swept the Indians (58-68) Aug. 4-6. The Tigers have won 12 of 16 meetings with Cleveland this season, and are 5-1 at Jacobs Field.
Left fielder Craig Monroe is 19-for-58 (.328) with two homers and eight RBIs in 16 games against Cleveland this season, and is batting .417 (10-for-24) with five doubles in six games at Jacobs Field.
Jeremy Bonderman (11-5, 3.86 ERA) looks for his first win since defeating the Indians on July 24 when he takes the mound in the series opener.
Bonderman capped a personal six-game winning streak with his victory over Cleveland in July, but has gone 0-1 with a 4.68 ERA in his last five starts.
The 23-year-old right-hander had a 6-0 lead over Texas on Sunday, but gave up six runs and a season-high 11 hits in 4 2-3 innings of a 7-6 loss and did not factor in the decision.
“That’s sad when I can’t hold onto a six-run lead,” Bonderman said.
Bonderman tries to get back on track at Jacobs Field, where he has pitched well lately. He is 5-1 with a 3.79 ERA in his last six starts at Cleveland, and is 7-1 with a 2.95 ERA in 13 road starts this season.
Bonderman is 6-8 with a 6.33 ERA in 18 career games against the Indians, and is 2-1 with a 6.45 ERA in four starts against them this season.
Cleveland defeated Kansas City 8-4 on Thursday, and has won 11 of its last 15 games.
Rookie Andy Marte went 3-for-4 with two doubles and a career-high three RBIs on Thursday, and is batting .474 (9-for-19) in his last five games.
“It’s nice to see him progressing the way he’s progressing,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said.
Rookie Jeremy Sowers (5-3, 3.48) looks to win his fifth straight decision when he gets the start for Cleveland. After going 1-3 with a 7.15 ERA in his first four starts, Sowers is 4-0 with a 1.50 ERA in his last six games.
The 23-year-old left-hander has been unbeatable at Jacobs Field lately, going 3-0 with a 0.87 ERA in his last four home starts, two of them shutouts.
Sowers allowed two runs—both in the first inning—and four hits in six innings of a 5-3 win over Tampa Bay on Saturday, his second straight victory. He has never faced the Tigers.