The slumping Cleveland Indians have dropped 12 of their last 16 games as they prepare to face a major challenge this weekend.
The Indians visit the first-place Detroit Tigers on Friday to open a three-game series matching the top two teams in the American League Central. Cleveland has surrendered 28 runs during a four-game winless streak, lost shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera for 3-4 weeks with a strained quadriceps muscle and slugger Mark Reynolds is 5-for-35 with one RBI in 10 games.
The Tigers defeated Tampa Bay twice in three outings, pushing their lead to 2 1/2 games over the Indians. Miguel Cabrera, who leads the majors in RBIs (66) and batting average (.373), has three homers and eight RBIs in five games against Cleveland this year. Former Indians shortstop Jhonny Peralta is also batting .373 over the last 16 games for the Tigers.
TV: 7:08 p.m. ET, SportsTime Ohio (Cleveland), Fox Sports Detroit
PITCHING MATCHUP: Indians RH Ubaldo Jimenez (4-3, 4.83 ERA) vs. Tigers RH Justin Verlander (7-4, 3.70)
Jimenez has found his form, allowing two or fewer runs in six of his last seven starts - including tossing eight shutout innings against the Rays on Saturday. The only poor outing in that span was against the Tigers when he surrendered six runs in four innings May 22 – 11 days after winning at Detroit. Miguel Cabrera is 14-for-40 with a homer in his career against Jimenez, who is 5-8 with 5.19 ERA lifetime against the Tigers.
Verlander has won three straight starts despite yielding 11 runs over 19 innings after surrendering eight runs against the Texas Rangers. The 2011 AL MVP has a win and a loss against the Indians in two starts this season and is 15-14 with a 4.68 ERA against Cleveland in his career. Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana have each belted three career homers off Verlander.
1. Detroit 1B Prince Fielder has hit in 11 straight games, going 16-for-45 during that span.
2. Cleveland C Yan Gomes has four of his six homers and 12 of his 17 RBIs in his last nine games.
3. The Tigers have won 52 of their last 73 games at home, but Cleveland is 4-2 in its last six at Detroit.