The Detroit Tigers might be in the midst of a successful streak that could earn them a spot in the postseason.
After a strong performance from their ace, the Tigers try for a fourth consecutive victory Saturday against the lowly Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.
Detroit (76-67) dropped the first four on its current trip before winning the final two of an abbreviated four-game set against NL Central-leading Chicago. After Thursday’s scheduled finale of that series was postponed due to rain, the Tigers won 4-0 at Cleveland on Friday behind seven solid innings from reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander.
The Tigers remain one game back of the White Sox, who they will face Monday in the makeup of Thursday’s contest.
Miguel Cabrera and Brennan Boesch each had two hits and an RBI as the Tigers won for the second time in seven games at Progressive Field in 2012. Though the Indians (60-85) have gone 16-44 since the All-Star break, they are 9-7 against the Tigers this season and took two of three at Detroit last week.
Cabrera is batting .323 with 19 RBIs in 16 games versus Cleveland in 2012, and .449 (11 for 25) with two home runs against scheduled starter Justin Masterson (11-13, 4.96 ERA).
The right-hander allowed a two-run homer to Cabrera and three other hits in six innings of a 3-2 win at Detroit on Sept. 4. Masterson, 2-1 with a 5.29 ERA against the Tigers in 2012, gave up one run and overcame five walks in seven innings of a 2-1 home win versus Detroit on May 24.
Masterson, however, was tagged for six runs in 6 2-3 innings of a 7-2 loss at Minnesota on Monday.
“I made some good pitches and they got some good swings on them,” he said.
Detroit counters with Anibal Sanchez (2-5, 4.40), who is 1-1 with a 1.42 ERA in three starts versus Cleveland this season. He’s given up two runs and six hits over six innings in each of his last two against the Indians.
Sanchez, however, is 0-2 in his last three starts overall despite conceding only four earned runs over 20 innings during that stretch. The Tigers have scored four times in those games. He gave up three runs on two homers and struck out six in seven innings of a 3-2 loss at Los Angeles on Sunday.
“I thought that was the best Sanchez has been,” manager Jim Leyland said. “He threw the ball better (Sunday) than I’ve seen since he’s been here. He’s getting better each time out.”
The right-hander faces an Indians club that managed six hits off Verlander and two relievers. Lonnie Chisenhall had two of those hits as Cleveland now tries to avoid a seventh loss in eight games.
Indians first baseman Casey Kotchman is 4 for 31 in his last 11 games but 8 for 17 (.471) with a double and a home run versus Sanchez.
Cleveland is hoping injured shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (wrist) and outfielder Michael Brantley (pectoral) will see action before this series ends. Cabrera has missed five straight games and Brantley the last two.