After dealing a severe blow to one division rival’s playoff hopes, the Detroit Tigers have designs on doing the same to their closest pursuers.
The Tigers hope to take a step closer to their first division title since 1987 on Monday afternoon against the Cleveland Indians, who are trying to overcome injuries while remaining in the hunt for a playoff spot.
Detroit (78-62) completed a resounding three-game sweep of the White Sox with an 18-2 rout Sunday night. The AL Central leaders stayed 6 1/2 games ahead of Cleveland (70-67), but dropped Chicago 8 1/2 games off the pace.
“It’s almost a little surreal at times when you’re scoring that many runs,” Detroit outfielder Andy Dirks(notes) said after the Tigers batted .410 while outscoring the White Sox 35-11 in the series. “At the same time, it’s just one game. It doesn’t matter if you win by two or you win by 20.”
Including Monday’s meeting, Detroit has six games remaining with Cleveland and three with Chicago.
“If we don’t take advantage of this series, you can’t be looking at the last three games of the season (against Detroit), because you might not be there,” manager Manny Acta said after his team took two of three from the last-place Royals.
While the Indians have split 12 games with Detroit, they’re currently missing several key pieces including Shin-Soo Choo(notes) (oblique), Travis Hafner(notes) (foot) and promising rookie Jason Kipnis(notes) (hamstring). Catcher Carlos Santana(notes) stayed in the game Sunday after turning an ankle, but third baseman Jack Hannahan(notes) will be a game-time decision Monday with a calf injury.
“We’ve got a lot of battling to do,” pitcher David Huff(notes) told the Indians’ official website. “We need to start winning or else - before we know it - our season is going to be over. We know that.”
One player Acta will have available is center fielder Grady Sizemore(notes), who was activated Monday and inserted into the leadoff spot for this game. The three-time All-Star had been sidelined since July 21 after undergoing abdominal surgery for a hernia suffered when he hurt his right knee on a slide.
Fister (6-13, 3.26 ERA) is 3-1 with a 2.97 ERA - including a victory over the Indians on Aug. 20 - since the Tigers picked him up from Seattle. The right-hander is 1-1 with a 2.35 ERA in four outings versus Cleveland this season.
Fister was 3-12 with a 3.33 ERA with Seattle, but has gotten much better support from Detroit’s power-packed lineup that features slugger Miguel Cabrera(notes) and fellow .300 hitters Victor Martinez(notes) and Jhonny Peralta(notes). Fister has received an average of 4.71 runs per game with Detroit, up from the 1.97 he got in 21 starts with Seattle.
He carried a perfect game into the seventh inning against Kansas City on Tuesday, but failed to get a decision in Detroit’s 2-1, 10-inning win. Fister is 2-0 with a 0.83 ERA in his last three starts.
Meanwhile, Jimenez (2-1, 5.56) has started to turn things around after a slow start in the AL.
The former Colorado Rockies right-hander has given up four runs over 13 innings in his two most recent starts after being lit up for 21 runs in 21 innings through his first four appearances with the Indians. Jimenez yielded three runs in six innings against Oakland on Wednesday, but failed to get a decision as Cleveland won 4-3 in 16.
Cleveland’s Asdrubal Cabrera(notes) drove in two runs Sunday after missing one game with a knee injury. The shortstop, who leads the Indians with 22 homers and 82 RBIs, is hitting .244 (11 for 45) with a homer and five RBIs in the season series against Detroit.