The Tigers and Indians will play the second game of a four-game series Tuesday night in Cleveland. Detroit currently holds a four-game lead over the Tribe in the American League Central. How will the division shake out?
1. There is a ____ percent change that the Indians catch the Tigers.
Dan Szymborski (@DSzymborski), ESPN Insider: Fifteen percent. The Indians are close enough to make it interesting, but I still think the Tigers are the better team. Four games can be overcome, but when the better team has the lead in the standings, they still have the advantage. The good news for the Indians is that their recent run of success has given them wild-card chances as well, something that didn't look to be in the mix earlier this season.
Stephanie Liscio (@stephanieliscio), It's Pronounced Lajaway: Seventy percent. If there's anything I learned from watching the 2012 Orioles it's that the underdog can sometimes surprise you, and that it's OK to dream big. The Indians have been the ultimate Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde team this year. They'll look awesome one day, and the next they'll forget how to field a routine ground ball. If we see the good Indians more often than not over the next two months, why couldn't they stun the world? Even if they don't catch the Tigers, by keeping pace they may be able to claim one of the wild-card spots.
Matt Meyers (@mtmeyers), ESPN.com: I would have said 15 percent had the Indians held on to their lead Monday night, but that brutal loss knocks that figure down to 7.5 percent, in my estimation. It was a reminder that Chris Perez is not a good closer, and entrusting him with crucial games down the stretch is a recipe for disaster.
2. Will the Indians regret not having been more active at the deadline?
Szymborski: I think so, though it's not entirely their fault. The Indians are in a position in which you'd love to see them make a big push for a player who can help them beyond 2013, someone like Cliff Lee, but nothing along those lines came to pass. Unfortunately, you can't just invade other teams and annex players you need, so if another GM won't come off his position that a particular player is worth half your farm system, there's only so much you can do about their intransigence.
Still, the Orioles and Tigers did make marginal upgrades that should do more than Cleveland's acquisition of Marc Rzepczynski.
Liscio: If the rumors are true, and the Giants really wanted Danny Salazar for two months of 36-year-old Javier Lopez, then I'm glad the Indians were not more active. There are some asking prices that are just too steep. Besides, last year there were a lot of big deals in August and the Indians could always look to make a move this month.
Meyers: Yes. The Indians made a clear play for this season by spending on Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn over the winter, and they really should have been in the market for a starting pitcher, ideally one who is under team control beyond 2013. They should have been marketing every prospect in their system not named Francisco Lindor to make it happen.
3. If the Tigers win the division, who starts Game 1 of the ALDS?
Szymborski: In the end, I still think Justin Verlander is the most likely to get the nod, despite not being in his 2011-12 form. His missing velocity this season is a concern, but a lot of the increase in his ERA has to do with his .328 batting average on balls in play, a number that's likely to come down significantly over the final two months of the season. The beauty of Detroit's position is that they probably don't even need to worry about who starts the first game, as the front four of Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez can all fit the role.
Detroit may not feel any need to do much, if any, rotation juggling and could simply go with whichever starter has the most rest heading into the ALDS. That's a luxury most teams don't have.
Liscio: Even though he's had his share of issues this year, I can't imagine a situation where it's not Verlander. If for no other reason than the fact that Jim Leyland seems like a creature of habit, and would automatically go to his No. 1 guy.
Meyers: Assuming he's healthy, Verlander would be my choice as his track record is too impressive to overlook. However, because Leyland has shown how much he values pitcher wins based on his All-Star selections (hello, Chris Tillman), and because Verlander has had some struggles in the postseason (career 4.22 ERA), my guess is he would pick Scherzer and not take too much heat for it.