The Detroit Tigers are making a once-close division race a laugher.
The Tigers look to continue to pull away in the AL Central when they go for their fifth straight win overall and sixth in a row against the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night.
Detroit had a 1 1/2-game advantage over Cleveland and was four ahead of Chicago on Aug. 19, but the Tigers have gone 14-4 since to take a commanding lead.
After sweeping the White Sox over the weekend by a score of 35-11, they opened this series with a 4-2 victory Monday.
That run has given Detroit (79-62) a season-best 7 1/2-game lead over the Indians (70-68). It’s the Tigers’ biggest division lead since 2006, when they reached the World Series.
“I’m not looking ahead,” manager Jim Leyland said. “We haven’t done anything but put ourselves in good position. That’s all.”
Leyland’s club showed no effect from Sunday’s late travel followed by an early game Monday. Victor Martinez(notes) hit a three-run homer in the fourth inning, Doug Fister(notes) struck out a career-high 13 over eight and Jose Valverde(notes) picked up his 41st save in as many opportunities.
Martinez, a former Indian, is leading Detroit’s charge over the last three weeks. He’s hitting .363 with six extra-base hits and 12 RBIs in the past 12 games.
After losing six of the first eight meetings against Cleveland, Detroit has outscored the Indians 30-14 in taking the last five.
“We need to be ready to even up the series,” manager Manny Acta said. “This is the most important one. Our effort and our energy should be concentrated on winning tomorrow.”
Cleveland, which had won five of seven prior to Monday, was hoping to get a boost from the return of Grady Sizemore(notes), who missed the last two months following abdominal surgery. However, he went hitless in four at-bats and struck out twice. He’s 2 for 25 with 11 strikeouts against the Tigers this season.
The right-hander didn’t receive a decision after giving up four runs in seven innings of a 5-4 win over Kansas City on Wednesday.
Porcello is 4-1 in his career against the Indians but 0-1 with a 9.42 ERA in three matchups this year. He’s gone 3 2-3 innings in each of the last two, allowing five runs and seven hits in an 8-7 win Aug. 21.
Cleveland’s Fausto Carmona(notes) will be looking to avoid a career high-tying 14th loss. Carmona (6-13, 4.84) yielded four runs in six innings of a 7-0 home defeat to Oakland on Thursday, and has gone 0-6 with a 4.82 ERA in his last 10 starts in Cleveland.
The right-hander has split a pair of starts against the Tigers this year, posting a 3.75 ERA. He lost 4-3 to them at home Aug. 11.
Cleveland activated rookie second baseman Jason Kipnis(notes) off the disabled list Tuesday. He gave the Indians a spark last month after being called up from Columbus, batting .279 with six homers and 11 RBI in 18 games before going on the DL on Aug. 14 because of a strained hamstring.