Based on the success Detroit's Anibal Sanchez has achieved versus Cleveland in the past, the Indians might not have an easy time ending their current slide against the Tigers.
Set to be activated from the disabled list, Sanchez looks to help the visiting Tigers to a seventh straight victory over the slumping Indians on Saturday.
Cleveland (45-41) held a one-half game lead in the AL Central on Tuesday, but now trails Detroit by 2 1/2 games after dropping its third straight, 7-0 to the Tigers on Friday.
"I don't really pay that much attention to the standings until September,'' Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "If this was a four-game series in September, I'd say it's probably a big series but I would not say that on July 5.''
Winners in four straight overall, the Tigers (47-38) have outscored the Indians 40-18 during their six-game series winning streak. Detroit's also won three in a row and six of eight at Progressive Field.
"In perspective, for us as a team as we go through this, we still got a lot of baseball so I think we're excited to get some learning curves here and there and be able to move on to the next one," losing pitcher Justin Masterson said.
Sanchez (6-5, 2.76 ERA) had not faced Cleveland until last season when he went 2-1 with a 1.75 ERA in four starts.
The right-hander last pitched June 15 when he allowed a two-run homer, four other hits and walked four in 3 2-3 innings while not factoring in the decision of a 6-3 loss at Minnesota. He was placed on the disabled list two days later with shoulder strain.
Sanchez lasted 1 2-3 innings in a rehab start at Class A Lakeland on Monday after he took a line drive off his left leg. The Tigers were hoping Sanchez would throw at least 60 pitches, but his shoulder felt fine and his leg is not expected to be a problem.
"It wasn't near as many (pitches thrown) as we would've liked," Leyland told the Tigers' official website. "But he felt great (pitching-wise) and we expect him to start on Saturday."
Sanchez has received an average 6.39 runs of support from his teammates, who have totaled 31 runs and 45 hits over the last four games.
With three hits and two RBIs on Friday, ex-Indian Victor Martinez is batting .431 with 21 RBIs in his last 17 games versus Cleveland.
Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera has hit .370 with 11 RBIs in his last six at Progressive Field.
Not of that likely bodes well for scheduled Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco (0-3, 8.17), who gave up six runs and 10 hits over four innings of a 6-4 loss at Detroit on June 8.
The right-hander will be recalled from Triple-A Columbus for the second time in a week after he also yielded six runs and 10 hits, this time over 5 2-3 innings, of a 9-8 victory in the nightcap of a doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox on June 28.
Carrasco, who missed all last season while recovering elbow surgery, is 0-8 with an 8.04 ERA in his last 11 starts dating to 2011.
Cleveland second baseman Jason Kipnis has reached base safely in 36 consecutive games, and is batting .446 during a 16-game hitting streak. He's 3 for 9 with a double against Sanchez.
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