Series Preview: Cleveland Indians vs. Detroit Tigers

2 of 2

Pitching Matchups:

Game one features a matchup of two pitchers one very different paths. For Sanchez, he was a necessity for the Tigers back in 2012. The Tigers made a hard push to acquire him at the trade deadline and he has not disappointed since. He currently leads the team in ERA and his 9-7 record could be even better if not for a few bad breaks during a couple of starts early in the year and a brief stint on at DL in the middle. He is a solid pitcher with solid command so expect the Indians to be challenged throughout the game.

Meanwhile, Kluber was acquired via a trade, but he was never considered a necessity. He was simply a potentially nice piece to have that could possible turn into something meaningful. Boy, did he ever. Kluber has been a revelation this season. Start after start he pushed our confidence in him up another notch. He’s been that good. It’s almost getting to the point where We may all trust him in a playoff series before any other pitcher on the staff not named Justin Masterson.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

2013 has been a struggle for Verlander. He has been good by almost any normal pitcher’s standards, but for Verlander the numbers are rather pedestrian. The 3.88 ERA is nowhere near the norm and the suddenly inferior 138 strikeouts at this point in the season is also worrisome. He just hasn’t looked like the same pitcher. Rather than dominating opposing lineups, he has gotten roughed up a bit. If the golden arm graced to him by the baseball gods in trouble, or is it simply a down year combined with some really bad luck? I’m willing to guess the latter.

As for Masterson, he continues to dominate with each and every start. He is an absolute joy to watch every five days or so. When he takes the mound, you just know that everything is going to be OK. Masterson is going to give you six quality innings, if not more which is invaluable at the point because it allows Terry Francona to rest his bullpen. Sure, Masterson has struggled at times against the Tigers, but even knowing that you still have to like their chances.

Doug Fister continues to be consistently consistent for the Tigers ever since they acquired him from the Mariners two summers ago. He’s not going to over power any team, but he will pound the zone and force opposing hitters into making some very difficult decisions. This season has been another solid one from the tall, lanky right hander. With a 10-5 record he has already matched last year’s win total. Of course, he also hasn’t had to deal with the nagging injuries that sidelined him for a decent stretch. He’s healthy this year and it has made all the difference to the Tigers’ championship aspirations.

Oh boy, now things are getting interesting in Wahoo land. In a drastic turn of events, the Indians have decided to skip Ubaldo Jimenez in the rotation on the heels of a lackluster performance in Miami this past weekend. In his place steps Danny Salazar. If you recall, Salazar was sensational in his debut a few weeks ago against the Blue Jays and has dominated at the Triple-A level ever since. Terry Francona spun the news by saying that they want to see “what the kid is made of.” According to reports, Jimenez didn’t fight the decision, choosing instead to play the role of understanding and supportive teammate. The one question that liners is, what does this mean for the rotation moving forward if Salazar dominates once again? Who is the odd man out? Are Ubaldo’s days as a member of the rotation numbered? Stay tuned folks.

Finally, the series finale will feature the front runner for the American League Cy Young award. That being, Max Scherzer. At 16-1 with a 2.85 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 10.11 K/9, Scherzer has been the epitome of dominant this season. It’s a good thing too for the Tigers. With Verlander struggling the way he has, they needed someone to step up and fill that void. Enter Scherzer who ascended to the top of the pitching mountain in 2013. There were always signs that Scherzer would be a quality starting pitcher at the big league level, but what he has done this season defies logic. He has been that good. The Indians gave him fits the last time they faced him, so expect him to come out focused and looking to exact a little revenge.

As for the Indians, they will send Zach McAllister to the mound to slay the beat that is Max Scherzer. So far this season has been a bit disappointing for McAllister. He has struggled with injuries and has routinely found himself on the short end of the stick when it comes to the late inning efforts of the bullpen. He was great in his last start, however, throwing a no-hitter into the fifth before surrendering two runs on three straight hits. Any concerns about how he may hold up following that strained finger seem to have been put to rest as his breaking ball has looked sharp and crisp. Expect McAllister to go at least five innings as he continues to stretch out his arm following a prolonged period of inactivity.

Final Thought:

As previously mentioned, this is a huge series for both the Indians and the Tiers. Split the four games and they go on their separate ways no different than they are entering play today. However, should one of them slip up it could be catastrophic. For the Tigers, this is their opportunity to put a strangle hold on the division once and for all. For the Indians, this is the opportunity they have been waiting for to gain some serious ground on the Tigers and shut up national pundits who still believe this team is a fraud. But, can they find their focus and solve the riddle that has been the Detroit Tigers? Hopefully. If not, this could end up being a very long and frustrating week for the Wahoo Warriors.