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ON DECK: Tigers finish road trip with weekend series vs. first-place Indians

The Detroit Tigers rode a season-high five-game winning streak into Cincinnati on Tuesday with an opportunity to reach and climb over the .500 mark on the season. Unfortunately, all that momentum was lost by the time that mini two-game set came around. Detroit dropped both games to the Reds.

UP NEXT

The Tigers (36-39) will now stay in Ohio to finish up their eight-game road trip, heading north up towards Cleveland to take on their division rival and first-place Indians (40-33).

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Up to this point, Cleveland has played all but two of their 18 games this month against their American League Central rivals. They haven’t exactly looked superior trying to pull away, they are just 8-8 in those 16 intra-division games in June. That does, however, include a 2-to-1 series win against the Tigers just two weekends ago in Detroit. In fact, they are 19-7 against teams within the AL Central not named the Minnesota Twins (3-6 vs. MIN).

This is the second of three trips to Cleveland for the Tigers and first since the fourth series of the entire season back in early April. The Tribe completed a four-game sweep of Detroit back then, holding the Tigers’ offense to just five runs and a .156 team batting average. Detroit is just 1-10 in their last 11 games at Progressive Field (have not won a series since April of 2017).

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Game 1 | Mike Fiers (Tigers) vs. Shane Bieber (Indians)

Detroit will give the ball to Mike Fiers (5-3, 4.09 ERA) to open this series Friday night. The final line for Fiers in his last start (5.1 IP, 8 H, 3 ER) is pretty pedestrian but overall, he was much better than that from start to finish. He had allowed just five hits and a walk through the first five frames before allowing a three-run homer in the sixth. The newly-turned 33-year-old will make his third start against the Indians, already with a 1.38 ERA over his first two outings against the Tribe. Both of those, however, came at home.

The good news for the Tigers is that they will avoid both Corey Kluber (who pitched on Wednesday) and Carlos Carrasco (who was recently placed on the disabled list). That said, the Indians have some solid reinforcements behind their top two horses. Cleveland has given one of their top prospects, Shane Bieber, some chances lately to prove his worth. The rookie has a 3.97 ERA over his first two big league starts (5 ER in 11.1 IP) and had a sparkling 1.29 ERA in 12 starts with their Double-A and Triple-A affiliates this season.

Game 2 | TBA (Tigers) vs. Trevor Bauer (Indians)

The Tigers are officially listing Saturday’s game as TBA right now but it will, in all likelihood, be the first start for lefty Francisco Liriano (3-2, 3.90 ERA) when he is activated from the disabled list. Liriano last pitched on May 26 at home against the Chicago White Sox, an outing in which he lasted just five innings and matched a season-high five runs allowed. He picked up a season-high eight strikeouts but surrendered three home run balls, the most he has given up in a start this season. Liriano got knocked around a bit in his rehab start at Triple-A Toledo last Sunday (4 IP, 11 H, 8 ER, 2 HR) but the Tigers have cleared him health-wise to re-join the big league club. He, too, will make his third start of the season against the Indians (0-1, 6.10 ERA).

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We mentioned how the Tigers will avoid both Kluber and Carrasco in this series but they will still have to deal with perhaps their most dominant pitcher of late. Trevor Bauer (6-5, 2.50 ERA) went seven scoreless against the White Sox his last time out, the third time this season in which he went at least six innings deep without allowing a run. Striking out eight Pale Hose was actually a let down for Indians fans, it snapped a string of four starts in which Bauer recorded double-digit strikeouts in a game. The 27-year-old has a dazzling 1.17 ERA in three starts vs. the Tigers this season (3 BB, 29 K).

Game 3 | Matthew Boyd (Tigers) vs. Mike Clevinger (Indians)

Matthew Boyd (4-5, 3.63 ERA) had a rare clunker in his last start against the Cincinnati Reds, lasting just four innings and giving up five runs to match a season-high. Four of those, however, came on one swing of the bat from Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who hit a wall-scraper grand slam that tipped off the right fielder Nicholas Castellanos’ glove. He will look to get back on track against an Indians team that he has somehow only faced once this year. That came way back in April at Progressive Field and it was a good one: seven innings of one-run ball.

Mike Clevinger (6-2, 3.00 ERA) is on one of those mini Bauer-type runs lately. The 27-year-old has a 1.23 ERA over his last two starts (2 ER in 14.1 IP), albeit both coming against a relatively weak-hitting White Sox club, with 21 strikeouts versus just three free passes. Prior to that, he yielded two runs over 6.2 innings of work in Detroit against the Tigers. His second start against Detroit comes Sunday at home, where he has been slightly more average (3.68 ERA in 8 home starts) than away from Progressive Field (2.27 ERA in 7 road starts).

HITTERS TO WATCH

The Tigers have just a .564 team OPS through their first 10 games with the Tribe this season. But one guy we point to consistently when these two teams get together is outfielder Leonys Martín, one of very few Tigers who has had success against Indians pitching. Martín has an eye-popping 1.117 OPS against Cleveland and has been better on the road (.844 OPS) this season than at home (.755 OPS).

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Outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall returned to the club earlier this month after a nearly two-month absence on the DL. Chisenhall in 13 games since coming back is hitting .385 with a .979 OPS. This includes a 5-for-13 stretch in the three-game series against the Tigers in Detroit two weeks ago. Since the start of the 2016 season, Chisenhall is hitting .308 in 36 games against the Tigers, with nearly half (15) of his knocks (32) going for extra bases.

SERIES INFO

  • Game 1 | Fri, June 22 @ 7:10 p.m. ET
  • Game 2 | Sat, June 23 @ 6:10 p.m. ET
  • Game 3 | Sun, June 24 @ 1:10 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.

Written by Alex Muller

MSU Graduate. Just a city boy born and raised in south Detroit. Baseball is life, a pitcher at heart. Freelance writer for MIPrepZone (News-Herald, Press & Guide).

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