The first road series of the season certainly did not start the way the Detroit Tigers wanted it to, with starter Jordan Zimmermann unable to go five innings in the series opener against the Chicago White Sox. But Detroit rallied to win in extra innings and overall pitched well to earn their first series sweep on the south side since 2011.
The Tigers now continue and will finish up their seven-game roadie with four games against another American League Central division rival in the Cleveland Indians. Pegged as the favorite to win the division again this year, the Tribe have been one of the better teams in all of baseball over the last two seasons, reaching the World Series in 2016 and collecting 102 wins last year before suffering an earlier-than-expected exit in the postseason.
The calling card for the Indians continues to be the pitching staff, which as ranked first or second in the majors in team ERA over the last two seasons. While it plays second fiddle to the hurlers, the Cleveland offense has been just as productive over that same time span, carrying a top-2 team batting average.
Detroit has struggled mightily with the Indians in recent years, just a 10-27 record since the beginning of 2016.
GAME 1 | Francisco Liriano (DET) vs. Corey Kluber (CLE)
Francisco Liriano was terrific in his team and season debut last week at home against the Kansas City Royals, allowing just one run on four hits and two walks over 6.2 innings of work, helping the Tigers earn their first victory of the 2018 campaign. However, pitching in Cleveland has not been ideal for him. Liriano has a 4.81 ERA in 10 career appearances at Progressive Field.
Ho-hum for Indians ace Corey Kluber. The defending AL Cy Young Award winner and two-time recipient of the honor has been among the better pitchers in all of baseball since 2013 (career 2.97 ERA in that span). Though by his standards, the Tigers have hit him around somewhat. Last year against Detroit, Kluber logged a 3.73 ERA in five starts.
GAME 2 | Matthew Boyd (DET) vs. Josh Tomlin (CLE)
Like Liriano, Matthew Boyd got off to a nice start in 2018, albeit in a losing effort. Boyd against Kansas City yielded just one run on four hits over six innings, inducing 18 fly balls. He made four starts against the Tribe in 2017 and performed very well, posting a 2.25 ERA in 23.2 IP.
It’s been a rough go a bit for 33-year-old Josh Tomlin over the last couple seasons. The longest-tenured Indian compiled a 4.66 ERA in 56 games from 2016-17, allowing 59 homers in that span. That trend continued for him in his first start of 2018, allowing eight earned (four homers) in just three innings against the Angels. And he’s had his trouble with the Tigers, an ERA over 5.00 in 16 career appearances vs. Detroit.
GAME 3 | Jordan Zimmermann (DET) vs. Carlos Carrasco (CLE)
After a respectable performance on Opening Day, Jordan Zimmermann struggled in his second outing against the White Sox when he surrendered six earned runs on nine hits in just 4.1 innings of work. And to say the Indians have torched him would be a major understatement. Zimmermann in five career starts vs. Cleveland has an ERA approaching 11.00… woof.
On the flip side, Carlos Carrasco has been every bit of excellent as Corey Kluber has for the Indians over the last handful of years, compiling a 3.24 ERA from 2014-17. He got roughed up a bit in his first start vs. Seattle but bounced back against Kansas City. Carrasco has a 3.88 ERA in 25 career games vs. Detroit but don’t let that fool you, that number dramatically drops to 1.41 in his last 10 starts vs. the Tigers.
GAME 4 | Michael Fulmer (DET) vs. Trevor Bauer (CLE)
The Tigers have officially listed the Game 4 starter in this series as TBA but Michael Fulmer would be next in line behind Zimmermann. Fulmer twirled 6.1 scoreless frames his last time out against the White Sox and has allowed just one run over 13.1 IP this year. The Indians have gotten to him in his young career, however. Fulmer has an ERA just over 6.00 in five career starts vs. the Tribe.
Trevor Bauer has been a hard one to figure out. He’ll put together some brilliant performances for the Indians but then regress to the mean with some clunkers. But Bauer has been an adequate back-of-the-rotation arm for Cleveland for multiple years now. Detroit though has touched him up over time, Bauer has a 7.82 ERA in 12 career games against Tigers’ bats.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Shortstop José Iglesias has struggled to get the bat going to start the year, just 2 for his first 26 at-bats. But Iglesias excelled against the Indians last season, hitting a cool .333 (17 for 51), with nearly half of his knocks going for doubles, and driving in six runs.
Entering Monday, Cleveland has the worst offense (.156 BA, .526 OPS) in the AL. That figures to change some given the track records of certain Tigers pitchers making starts this week. One guy who will be especially happy to see Detroit is José Ramirez. Like Iglesias, Ramirez has had very little success to start 2018 (2 for 30 entering Sunday). But he hit .476 with an OPS over 1.600 against the Tigers in 2017… that’s pretty good, right?
- Game 1 | Mon, April 9 @ 6:10 p.m. ET^
- Game 2 | Tues, April 10 @ 6:10 p.m. ET
- Game 3 | Wed, April 11 @ 6:10 p.m. ET^
- Game 4 | Thur, April 12 @ 6:10 p.m. ET
All games can be seen on Fox Sports Detroit unless otherwise noted. Be sure to check your local listings for regional radio broadcasts.
^Can be seen on FSD Plus