Having returned to the formula that has sparked their recent tear, the Cleveland Indians appear to have a decent chance to catch their rivals atop the AL Central.
The red-hot Indians will try for their 12th win in 14 games and draw even with the first-place Detroit Tigers in the series finale at Comerica Park on Sunday.
After having their four-game winning streak snapped in the opener, Cleveland (19-15) bounced back with solid starting pitching and timely hitting in a 7-6 victory at Detroit on Saturday.
Ubaldo Jimenez struck out eight and allowed one run over six innings to outpitch Justin Verlander before closer Chris Perez got Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera to ground out with runners on first and second in the bottom of the ninth.
“He chopped it,” said Perez, who got his sixth save to move the Indians within one game of the Tigers for the lead in the division. “I wanted him to put something in play, but down. Luckily he did.”
Cleveland starters have limited opponents to four or fewer runs in 11 of 13 games, posting a 3.21 ERA during that span. Right-hander Zach McAllister (3-3, 2.63 ERA) will try to add to that impressive stretch while pitching Cleveland into a first-place tie.
After a 1-3 start with 3.52 ERA over his first four starts, McAllister has allowed just two runs over 14 2-3 innings in back-to-back victories.
He struck out four and yielded five hits over 7 2-3 innings in a 1-0 victory over Oakland on Tuesday and has allowed three earned runs or less in all six starts.
“He’s learning so fast,” manager Terry Francona said. “When you tell him something, even in passing, he takes it into the game. The game’s not speeding up at all. He’s executing pitches.”
While he’s yet to earn a decision, McAllister has a 2.04 ERA in three career starts against the Tigers. He gave up six hits and no earned runs over five innings in a 5-4 loss in his only career outing at Detroit on Sept. 28, 2011.
The Tigers (20-14) counter with Rick Porcello who makes his first start since May 2 after having his turn skipped in the rotation.
Porcello (1-2, 7.52) had a disastrous start with a 13.09 ERA over his first three outings, but has allowed six runs and 10 hits over 13 1-3 innings in his last two outings - both Detroit victories.
The right-hander is 1-3 with a 6.62 ERA over his last seven starts against the Indians and hasn’t beaten them since Sept. 6, 2011.
This time, he’ll have to contend with a Cleveland team that went 5 for 15 with runners in scoring position on Saturday and has hit .341 in those situations over its last 14 games.
Carlos Santana is 11 for 26 with two homers and 11 RBIs in those spots and 9 for 24 with three homers lifetime against Porcello.
Asdrubal Cabrera who went 3 for 5 with two RBIs on Saturday, is 13 for 34 in this matchup.
Detroit, which hopes to avoid its fourth loss in five games, has gotten big production from its middle infielders.