These rivals look to make an early statement in the division when they meet for the first time this season Friday night in the opener of an important three-game series at Comerica Park.
Since April 25, Detroit (29-17) has the second-best record in the majors at 18-8, while Cleveland (28-17) is tied with the Los Angeles Angels for the third-best mark at 18-10.
The Tigers and Indians have alternated between first and second place in the division this past month, and Detroit currently owns a half-game advantage.
“We’re not just looking at Cleveland,” Detroit’s Gary Sheffield told the Tigers’ official Web site. “We’re looking at the whole division. It’s a tough division. We know that. Regardless of how well teams are playing right now, we know that this is the toughest division.”
Last season, the Tigers went 13-6 against Cleveland, winning seven of 10 at Comerica Park.
Detroit has won five of its last six games, and is coming off its most lopsided win of the season, a 12-0 rout over the Angels on Thursday.
Magglio Ordonez had four hits and drove in three runs to take over the major league lead with 45 RBIs. Ordonez has been fantastic at the plate lately, going 14-for-28 with four homers, 13 runs and eight RBIs during a seven-game hitting streak.
“I don’t say anything to him. I just let him go,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “He’s hitting the ball all over.
“I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like it.”
While Ordonez has been heating up lately, he has struggled against Friday’s starter Paul Byrd (4-1, 3.55 ERA), going just 4-for-29 (.138) lifetime against him.
Byrd is 4-0 in four starts at home, but is 0-1 in three road starts, with Cleveland losing each of those games.
Comerica Park has been a favorable stadium for Byrd, though, as he gave up just three earned runs in 20 2-3 innings over three starts there last season. He is 2-2 with a 1.67 ERA in five career starts in Detroit.
The right-hander went 1-1 with a 3.80 ERA in four starts against the Tigers last season, and is 6-2 with a 3.04 ERA in 13 games - 12 starts - against them lifetime.
On Sunday, Byrd gave up three runs and nine hits in seven innings of a 5-3 win over Cincinnati to win his second straight start. He has not won three starts in a row since May 4-16, 2005.
The Tigers counter with Nate Robertson (4-3, 3.62).
After going 2-1 with a 2.43 ERA in five April starts, Robertson is 2-2 with a 5.48 ERA in four starts this month.
The left-hander was a bit wild his last time out, giving up six hits and a season-high four walks in five innings, but only allowed only two of those baserunners to cross the plate in an 8-7 win over St. Louis on Friday.
Robertson split his two starts against the Indians last season, allowing 10 runs in 8 1-3 innings in those games. He is 2-3 with a 5.00 ERA in 11 career starts against Cleveland.
The Indians avoided a sweep by beating Kansas City 10-3 on Thursday.
Casey Blake tripled in three runs and doubled, and is 6-for-17 (.353) with six extra base hits in his last five games. Blake is 8-for-25 (.320) with four homers lifetime against Robertson.
These teams play a four-game series at Jacobs Field beginning Thursday.