Tigers-Indians Preview

The Associated Press

Chris Perez expressed his frustration at the poor attendance by Cleveland Indians fans this season.

Perhaps those fans are waiting to see how their club fares against the defending AL Central champion Detroit Tigers.

The Indians dropped their final 10 meetings with the Tigers last year, a skid they'll try to snap in their first 2012 matchup Tuesday night at Progressive Field.

With Cleveland (23-18) in first place, Perez voiced his disappointment in Indians fans for not being more supportive of the club.

"The fans are going to come, I know that," Perez said. "It's just a slap in the face when you're in first place and last in attendance. Last. Not 25th or 26th. Last."

The closer has not taken the mound during the Indians' 10-game slide against Detroit (20-21), which has outscored Cleveland 76-31 in those games. Miguel Cabrera is batting .385 with 11 runs scored in that streak for the Tigers.

The Indians finished in second place 15 games behind the Tigers a year ago. Detroit manager Jim Leyland believes they could be more of a factor in 2012.

"They were a good team last year," Leyland told the Tigers' official website. "They just probably, last year, weren't quite ready yet to take that next step, but who knows now."

Leyland is hoping his club will get healthier Tuesday.

Center fielder Austin Jackson, who hit .211 against Cleveland last year, could return after missing four games with an abdominal strain. Closer Jose Valverde may also be back after not pitching since last Tuesday due to a lower back strain.

Prince Fielder will return to Cleveland for the first time since he went 6 for 11 in a 2009 interleague set while with Milwaukee, including a career-best, six-RBI performance in a 14-12 win for the Brewers.

Fielder is 5 for 16 against Ubaldo Jimenez (4-3, 5.09 ERA), who has won his last two home outings. Jimenez yielded three runs over six innings in Wednesday's 9-3 victory over Seattle.

Delmon Young is 8 for 15 with a homer against the right-hander while Cabrera is 7 for 19. Jimenez's 6.18 ERA against the Tigers is his third-worst versus any opponent, and he went 0-3 with a 9.98 ERA in his final three 2011 starts against them.

Right-hander Rick Porcello (3-3, 5.12) will pitch for Detroit after he lasted four innings and gave up six runs - two earned - while escaping without a decision in Wednesday's 11-7 defeat to Minnesota.

Porcello is 5-1 with a 3.86 ERA in 12 starts against the Indians. He has allowed more homers to Carlos Santana than any other batter, with the switch-hitter going deep three times among six hits in 16 at-bats against him.

Asdrubal Cabrera, 9 for 27 versus Porcello, batted .215 against Detroit last year and won't bring much momentum to this series. He had a solo homer for his only hit in 10 at-bats over the weekend as Cleveland lost two of three at home against Miami.

The Tigers open a 10-game trip after completing a 2-3 homestand by taking two of three from Pittsburgh.

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