Just when it seemed like the Detroit Tigers were ready to stake their claim to first place in the AL Central, they've again taken a step back.
After two more one-run losses, the Tigers look to avoid being swept in a home series by the Cleveland Indians for the first time in four years Wednesday night.Detroit (72-63) had won five of six before it was swept at Kansas City last week, but bounced back with a home sweep of Chicago to move into a first-place division tie with the White Sox. However, the Tigers are coming off a pair of 3-2 losses and find themselves in position to be swept at Comerica Park by Cleveland for the first time since Aug. 25-27, 2008.One game behind the first-place White Sox, Detroit's last six losses have come by one run."If you want to get to the postseason, we've got to win enough games to do it, but I'm not going to change," manager Jim Leyland said. "That's just the way it is. We come here steady every day."Miguel Cabrera's two-run sixth inning homer was all the offense Detroit could manage Tuesday en route to falling to 5-9 versus Cleveland (58-78) this season.The Indians have won three of four in September after going 5-24 in August."You have as bad an August as we had, it seemed that September became a relief for us," winning pitcher Justin Masterson said.Detroit has batted .177 with 11 hits and 14 strikeouts in the last two games against a Cleveland pitching staff that posted a 6.67 ERA while losing five of the previous six.Cabrera, however, is hitting .419 (13 for 31) with two homers and seven RBIs in the last eight games after going 2 for 17 in his previous six.Teammate Delmon Young is 10 for 24 (.417) against scheduled Cleveland starter Ubaldo Jimenez (9-14, 5.61 ERA), who is 2-1 with a 3.75 ERA in four starts versus Detroit this season. Jimenez, though, gave up six runs and walked four in 5 1/3 innings of a 6-1 loss at Comerica Park on Aug. 4.The right-hander allowed four runs, walked three and struck out seven in 5 2/3 innings of a 5-3 loss to Texas on Friday that dropped him to 0-3 with a 7.97 ERA in his last four starts.Detroit counters with Doug Fister (7-8, 3.67), who is 0-1 with a 9.35 ERA in his last two starts but 1-1 with a 2.38 ERA in three versus Cleveland in 2012. That victory came against Jimenez on Aug. 4, when Fister yielded a run and four hits in his first complete game since July 2, 2011, with Seattle.If the right-hander is to continue his recent success against the Indians he'll need to improve on Friday's outing when he allowed three runs, walked four and hit two batters in five innings while not factoring in the decision of a 7-4 win over the White Sox.Cleveland's Shin-Soo Choo is 9 for 25 (.360) with two doubles and two home runs against Fister. The Indians leadoff hitter is batting .389 (7 for 18) in his last five games after suffering through a 1-for-19 slump.
Indians catcher Carlos Santana is just 3-for-21 (.143) with an OPS of .399 and 5 strikeouts in his career against Detroit starter Doug Fister. If you factor in his career average of .182 at Comerica Park, Santana seems likely to struggle on Wednesday night.