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Series preview: Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers

The easiest way to climb up your division standings is to beat a division rival. So let's do that.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Indians have dropped their last two series at home against the Seattle Mariners and New York Mets. They will look to turn it around in a lengthy road trip that starts against the division rival Detroit Tigers tonight. Now that Rajai Davis is not on the Tigers to continually harass the Tribe every time they played against Detroit, maybe the Indians fortunes will turn around this series.

The series begins tonight at 7:10 p.m., then concludes with back-to-back 1:10 p.m. starts over the weekend.


  • Friday, 7:10 p.m. ET: Josh Tomlin (RHP) vs. Justin Verlander (RHP)
  • Saturday, 1:10 p.m. ET: Corey Kluber (RHP) vs. Anibal Sanchez (RHP)
  • Sunday, 1:10 p.m. ET: Carlos Carrasco (RHP) vs. Shane Greene (RHP)

In a vacuum, all three of these pitching matchups would mean easy victories for the Indians, assuming Josh Tomlin keeps overperforming and Justin Verlander keeps underperforming. Anibal Sanchez struggled last season and he is off to a slow start in 2016; I would bet money on Corey Kluber getting on track first. Carlos Carrasco over Shane Greene should require no explanation.

However, in reality, the Tigers offense should still be as annoyingly good as ever. As long as Miguel Cabrera draws breath, he will do damage to the Indians. The Indians offense just has to do more damage to Shane Greene.

The Indians will luckily avoid Jordan Zimmerman, who has yet to allow a run for the Tigers this season since being acquired in the offeseasonf.


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Upcoming schedule: It'll be a while before the Indians see Progressive Field again. After wrapping up this three-game series with the Tigers on Sunday, they will head to Minnesota to face the Twins, then on to Philadelphia to play against the Phillies.

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Detroit Tigers


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If there is one clear advantage for the Indians over the Tigers on paper, it is the fact that Detroit pitchers walk so many batters. While the Tigers are the second-to-worst team in the American League when it comes to issuing walks, the Indians have an 8.7 percent walk rate, 7th best in the AL. Whether or not the Indians will actually be able to hit those baserunners home is another story entirely, but they should be able to avoid striking out against this Tigers staff, at least.

Tigers position players

  • C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
  • 1B: Miguel Cabrera
  • 2B: Ian Kinsler
  • SS: Jose Iglesias
  • 3B: Nick Castellanos
  • LF: Justin Upton
  • CF: Anthony Gose
  • RF: J.D. Martinez
  • DH: Victor Martinez
Tigers Bench
  • C: Bobby Wilson
  • IF: Mike Aviles
  • OF: Tyler Collins
  • OF: Andrew Romine

The offensive leader for the Tigers in this young season is catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who has a team-high five home runs and 228 wRC+. He is also second on the team in strikeout rate (35%), just behind Justin Upton (38.5%).

Speaking of Upton, he has struggled to start the season after the Tigers handed him a six-year, $132,750,000 contract prior to the season. He has gone just 14-for-62 in the team's first 14 games, and he has just one home run to 25 strikeouts. Obviously, he has plenty of time to turn around and be worth the $22 million he is being paid for 2016, but it's been a rough April so far.

Tigers starting rotation

  • RHP: Justin Verlander
  • RHP: Anibal Sanchez
  • RHP: Jordan Zimmerman
  • RHP: Mike Pelfrey
  • RHP: Shane Greene
Tigers bullpen
  • RHP: Francisco Rodriguez
  • RHP: Mark Lowe
  • LHP: Justin Wilson
  • LHP: Blaine Hardy
  • RHP: Drew VerHagen
  • RHP: Alex Wilson
  • LHP: Kyle Ryan

Given the three lefty relievers in the Tigers pen and just how bad their starting rotation has been, maybe it would better suit the Indians to not knock out Verlander, Sanchez, and Greene early in the game. Two pitchers on the Detroit staff have avoided giving up a run this season. One of them, Jordan Zimmerman, the Indians will thankfully avoid, but the other, Justin Wilson, should see some time in this series working out of the bullpen.

Hopefully, the Indians will get a chance to jump on Francisco Rodriguez, who has allowed five earned runs in just 6.1 innings of work as Detroit's closer.