The struggling Detroit Tigers failed to take full advantage of a series against the worst pitching team in the majors. Now, they must face one of the league’s best starters.
Sabathia (7-1, 3.54 ERA) defeated the Tigers (30-22) in Detroit on Saturday, allowing three runs in seven innings of Cleveland’s 6-3 victory. That was the middle contest of a three-game sweep for the Indians (32-19), who vaulted from one-half game behind the Tigers into the 2 1/2-game division lead which they still hold.
Both of these clubs have gone 1-2 since their series last weekend.
The Tigers lost two of three to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, including a 5-3 defeat in Wednesday’s series finale. Detroit scored three runs in the first inning, but managed just two hits after that against the team with a major league-worst 5.50 ERA.
Placido Polanco, Carlos Guillen and Marcus Thames each drove in a run for the defending AL champions, who have dropped five of six. However, manager Jim Leyland remains confident in his team despite the slump.
“I don’t want anybody feeling sorry for us,” Leyland told the Tigers’ official Web site. “We’ve got what we’ve got and what we’ve got is pretty good. I’ll take this team anywhere.”
Detroit will likely start this series without its regular left side of the infield. Guillen, who is batting .317, left the game in the seventh inning with a mild left groin strain. Leyland said the shortstop won’t play Thursday.
Third baseman Brandon Inge, who was hit by a pitch on his left big toe during Tuesday night’s 14-2 victory, has a small chip fracture in the toe and is also unlikely to play.
Despite last weekend’s sweep, Cleveland finished its nine-game road trip with a middling 5-4 record. The Indians avoided a sweep to the major league-leading Boston Red Sox with an 8-4 win on Wednesday.
“I think it means a little extra when you’re trying to stop a slide,” Byrd told the Indians’ official Web site. “And I think it means something extra when you’re in first place and you have a team a game or two behind you. It’s a little extra pressure.”
Cleveland will face Justin Verlander (5-1, 2.71) in Thursday’s opener, a pitching rematch from Saturday. Verlander gave up two runs and three hits over six innings when he last faced Sabathia and the Indians, although he did not get charged with the loss.
The reigning AL rookie of the year, who has won his last four decisions, is 2-2 with a 4.85 ERA in five career starts against the Indians. Both losses came at Jacobs Field, where he is 1-2 with a 7.02 ERA in three outings.