After taking home baseball's first Triple Crown award in 45 years last season, Miguel Cabrera is off to an even better start in 2013.
Unfortunately for the Detroit Tigers, his eye-popping numbers haven't translated into many wins of late.
Cabrera and the visiting Tigers try to get back on track Tuesday night against the AL Central-leading Cleveland Indians, who aim for a season high-tying sixth consecutive win.
Cabrera led the majors with 44 homers and 139 RBIs and hit an AL-best .330 last year, posting eight, 34 and a .304 average through his first 42 games. The reigning AL MVP is batting a major league-leading .387 with 11 homers and 47 RBIs for the Tigers (23-19) thus far in 2013.
"It's pretty hard to improve on a Triple Crown. He's the best hitter in the game," manager Jim Leyland told MLB's official website. "You can have some interesting conversations if you get into stats a lot. It doesn't make any difference. He's one of those special guys that don't come around often and he's been special for a long time."
Cabrera was especially locked in Sunday, going 4 for 4 with three homers, five RBIs and four runs in an 11-8 loss at Texas. He became the first player in major league history to post such numbers in a defeat.
"Of course you wouldn't have believed that, but unfortunately that's what happened," said teammate Prince Fielder, who added two hits and three RBIs. "You never think you're going to lose. You always feel confident you're going to win, but it just didn't work out."
Cabrera is also batting a major league-leading .509 with runners in scoring position, recording 40 RBIs in 55 at-bats.
Detroit, though, has dropped eight of 12. The Tigers have allowed opponents to hit .335 while losing four of their last five, yielding at least seven runs in each of those defeats.
The Indians (26-17), meanwhile, enter this two-game set having won 18 of 22, including their last five while averaging 7.4 runs. Yan Gomes hit a walkoff three-run homer Monday - his second long ball of the day - as Cleveland completed a four-game sweep of Seattle with a 10-8, 10-inning victory.
"You're supposed to play 'til they send you home," said manager Terry Francona, whose club has won 13 of 15 at home. "It's a good feeling. Once you do it a few times I think that breeds some confidence. Whether it's picking each other up, it's getting contagious, and that's good."
The Indians will try to stay hot against Detroit's Max Scherzer (5-0, 3.98 ERA), who was tagged for five runs over seven innings during Wednesday's 7-5 loss to Houston. The right-hander could bounce back on the road, where he's compiled a 1.23 ERA - significantly lower than his home mark of 5.85.
Scherzer allowed four runs over eight innings in a 10-4 victory over Cleveland on May 10, improving to 5-1 - albeit with a 4.64 ERA - over his last seven starts in the series.
The Indians counter with Corey Kluber (3-2, 5.40). After giving up career highs of eight runs and 11 hits over 4 2-3 innings opposite Scherzer on May 10, Kluber bounced back Wednesday, allowing three runs and six hits over six frames in a 10-4 win at Philadelphia.
"I was more aggressive in the strike zone and I didn't fall behind too many guys," he said. "I didn't carry the last game into this one at all. It makes your job a lot easier when you get ahead of hitters."
Cabrera, 4 for 9 with a homer against Kluber, is batting .376 with 10 long balls and 30 RBIs over his last 26 games versus Cleveland.
The Indians will be without first baseman Nick Swisher after he was placed on the paternity list Tuesday. Swisher, batting .274 with six homers and 16 RBIs, must remain on the list one to three days.