Cleveland Indians 76-69 @ Detroit Tigers 80-66

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Sep 9, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler (3) high fives relief pitcher Joe Nathan (36) after picking off Kansas City Royals center fielder Jarrod Dyson (not pictured) at second base in the ninth inning at Comerica Park. Detroit won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Indians Face Tigers in Biggest Series of the Season So Far

The Cleveland Indians travel to Detroit to begin a three game set against their arch rival, the Detroit Tigers. At 4 and .5 games back of the Royals respectively, this series could play a huge role in thickening the plot in the race for the AL Central crown, or could slam the door shut on one of the playoff hopefuls.

Of course, the team most in danger of having their playoff dreams shattered is the Indians. If all goes right, there is the chance that the Tribe could leave Detroit 1 game back of the division lead. If things go wrong, they could be staring at as much as a 7-game deficit in the division race. With 14 games left as of this coming Monday, overcoming a 4-game deficit would take a miracle… and possibly a human sacrifice to come to fruition.

As nice as it would be to assume that the Indians, who have been playing great baseball, will roll into Detroit and handle their business, there is cause for concern. As we have documented all too many times this season, the Tigers are the Indians Kryptonite. Time and time again they have run into the Tigers and almost each and every time has ended with everyone scratching their heads wondering “What happened?”

Aug 30, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) during the third inning at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

It’s a mystery to everyone involved. For reasons that no one can really seem to understand, the Tigers just seem to have the Indians number and it’s been that way for quite some time. Over the past three seasons, we’ve watched as the Tigers have slugged and pitched their way to victory after victory against the Indians. Now, when the Indians need to pile up as many wins as possible in order to remain in playoff contention, the Tigers come calling.

This isn’t going to be easy, not that anyone expects it to be. Both teams enter tonight’s game having won six of their last ten games with the Indians victorious in their last two. However, one look at the scheduled pitching match-ups and there is reason for pessimism. Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and Trevor Bauer against David Price, Kyle Lobstein, and Justin Verlander.

Nothing against the Indians rotation, which has been great, but no one the Tribe is rolling out is on the level of either Price or Verlander. To make matters worse, the last time Kyle Lobstein faced the Indians he shut them out after surrendering an early run. And while both Price and Verlander have had issues of late, particularly Verlander, both are capable of turning it up a notch and racking up a dozen K’s over eight innings of work.

One thing working in the Tribe’s favor is that they have to be due, right? I know, it’s a super scientific, ultra statistically derived rationalization, but honestly… the Indians are due to either sweep or take two of three from the Tigers. Playing their best ball of the season with a pitching staff that is dominating, there is reason to believe that this is the weekend when the tide finally changes.

But again, it won’t be easy. The Tigers are the best offensive team in baseball. They can run out a perennial MVP candidate in Miguel Cabrera. Behind him is the severely underrated Victor Martinez. Oh, and if that’s not enough they have a diamond in the rough in J.D. Martinez (he’s killed the Indians this year), another all-star in Ian Kinsler, and a strong veteran presence.

One thing that just might play into the Tribe’s favor is the managerial match-up. This is the time of year, along with the postseason, where managers earn their paychecks. In the battle between Brad Ausmus and Terry Francona, the edge significantly favors the latter. Perhaps there is a chance Ausmus misreads the situation. Maybe he mismanages his bullpen. Could he pull a few Ned Yost type moves? It’s possible. Keep your fingers crossed.

There’s also the possibility that this entire series will be for not for both teams. We assume that this will be a make or break series, and it may very well be, but there is a third team that can ruin everything. If the Royals fail to do their part and keep on winning, then neither team stands to gain any real ground in the race for the division. And as disheartening as it sounds, it’s the truth. Preservation is the goal here, especially with a series looming on the horizon with the aforementioned Royals.

How will it all shake out? Who can really say? What I do know is that this is the most confident I have been in this team at any point this season. Their most recent series against the Tigers could have sent them into a free fall. That wasn’t the case. Instead, they over came a few tough losses and continue to show they could be a player in this before all is said and done.

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