The Cleveland Indians are inching closer to the penthouse in the American League Central in part by dominating the team that resides in the division's cellar.
The Indians have won eight straight meetings with the Detroit Tigers and nine of 10 in the season series heading into Tuesday's second contest of a four-game set in Cleveland.
While the Indians have won 13 of their past 18 contests overall to move within six games of the first-place Minnesota Twins, rookie Oscar Mercado had been mired in a 1-for-25 stretch before Cleveland's 8-6 win over Detroit on Monday.
Mercado capped his first multi-homer performance with a solo shot in the seventh inning, much to the delight of manager Terry Francona.
"That was really fun to watch," Francona said. "Before the game, I said it's not realistic that a kid isn't going to have a hiccup or hit a bump in the road. Boy, did he come out of it (on Monday)."
Mercado was thrilled to take the first step toward getting back on track after his pronounced slump.
"I've got to thank my teammates for that one," the 24-year-old said. "They know what it's like. I've had a lot of conversations with them. They told me that's how it's going to go sometimes."
Mercado is 13-for-32 with two homers, eight RBIs and five runs against Detroit this season.
Later in the seventh after Mercado's homer, Jose Ramirez hit a two-run double to improve to 10-for-29 with three homers and eight RBIs during a seven-game hitting streak.
Detroit's Harold Castro collected two hits including a double in the series opener and is 10-for-17 with four RBIs in his past four contests.
Jordy Mercer belted a pair of homers in the series opener for the Tigers, who are in a tailspin with nine losses in their past 11 games.
Detroit left-hander Ryan Carpenter (1-5, 8.36 ERA) will be recalled from Triple-A Toledo to make the start after he yielded one run on five hits over six innings with the Mud Hens last Thursday.
Carpenter surrendered eight runs, six earned, on eight hits in three innings in a 13-4 setback against Cleveland on June 14. Roberto Perez is 3-for-4 while Francisco Lindor is 2-for-5 with two RBIs against the 28-year-old.
Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire could insert Trevor Rosenthal into Tuesday's game after the 29-year-old struck out two while pitching a scoreless eighth inning in the series opener. Rosenthal was brought up from Toledo earlier Monday.
"He threw 99 (mph), had a good curveball, obviously missed a couple of pitches, but for the first time out, I liked what I saw," Gardenhire said of the former St. Louis Cardinals All-Star closer.
Plesac, who was sent to the minors in order to pitch through the All-Star break, had a pair of rough outings in his last two trips to the mound with Cleveland.
The 24-year-old was blitzed for seven runs on as many hits in 3 2/3 innings of a 13-0 shellacking by Baltimore on June 29, and then he allowed three runs on three hits with three walks in 2 2/3 innings of a no-decision at Kansas City on July 4.
Prior to those two outings, Plesac permitted one run on five hits in seven innings on June 23 in an 8-3 win over Detroit.
Plesac tossed 6 1/3 innings of three-run ball in a loss for Columbus on Thursday.
--Field Level Media