The Cleveland Indians are in jeopardy of seeing their string of American League Central titles come to a halt this season, but likely not if they played more games against the Detroit Tigers this season.
The Indians (88-63) aim to defeat the Tigers (45-105) for the 16th straight time and 17th time in 18 meetings this season on Wednesday when the division rivals play the second contest of their three-game series in Cleveland.
The Indians' 16 wins against Detroit are the most by the club against one team since Cleveland beat the Chicago White Sox 17 times in 2013.
"I didn't know we'd beaten them 15 straight times, so I never even thought about it," right-hander Adam Plutko said following the Indians' 7-2 win over the Tigers on Tuesday.
"The bottom line is we need to play our best brand of baseball no matter who our opponent is. No matter if it's a winning team or a losing team. ... If we play like we did (Tuesday), I think we're going to have a really good chance."
Entering play Wednesday, Cleveland is five games behind AL Central-leading Minnesota, and the Twins hold a magic number of seven to clinch the division.
The Indians also find themselves just one-half game behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the second wild-card spot.
Rookie Oscar Mercado continued his torrid play at the plate, belting a solo homer and a double on Tuesday. The 24-year-old has multi-hit performances in four consecutive contests and five of his last six. He also has an eight-game hitting streak and is batting .400 (20-for-50) over his past 12 outings.
"It's incredible, knowing that you get to show up and play important games every single day. It's something we're all really excited about," Mercado said. "It's playoff-like intensity every single game, and we're excited for these next 11 games."
Mercado is 5-for-11 with a double and six RBIs versus Detroit's scheduled starter for Wednesday, Spencer Turnbull (3-15, 4.77 ERA), who will look to exact a measure of revenge against the team responsible for one-third of his majors-high loss total this season. The 26-year-old right-hander owns is 0-5 with a 6.48 ERA versus the Indians.
Cleveland right-hander Aaron Civale (3-3, 1.93 ERA) will get the nod on Wednesday after making a rain-shortened start in his last trip to the mound.
Civale improved to 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts against Detroit this season after allowing two runs on six hits in seven innings of a 4-2 win on Aug. 28.
The 24-year-old has limited the Tigers to a .190 batting average, although Dawel Lugo is the lone member of the team to homer against him.
Lugo also went deep on Tuesday and has hit safely in 18 of his last 23 contests, while Grayson Greiner recorded his fifth multi-hit performance in 10 games since being recalled from Triple-A Toledo.
"I feel much more confident and in a better place mentally than three months ago," said Greiner, who is 15-for-36 (.417) with five runs in his past 10 contests. "Sometimes God blesses you with obstacles you don't really expect or understand."
--Field Level Media