Detroit, expected by most to dominate the AL Central, spent all but two days atop the division in the first half. With a 6.5-game lead, the Tigers have a chance to put the division out of reach with a strong finish to July.
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The Indians struggled throughout the first half of the season, limping into the All-Star break with an even .500 record. Last year Cleveland finished just one game behind the division-champion Tigers en route to its first playoff appearance since 2007. The four-game series to begin the second half is critical to a team trailing Detroit by 7.5 games.
Anibal Sanchez will kick off the series for the Tigers after a strong first half performance. Sanchez allowed more than three runs just twice in 16 starts and posted a 3.04 ERA. The 30-year-old has been the most consistent starter for Detroit this season, including a stretch of six straight quality starts during the team's 9-20 slump.
TV: 7:08 p.m. ET, Fox Sports (Detroit), Sports Time Ohio (Cleveland)
Sanchez has stifled the Indians throughout his years in Detroit, owning a 2.34 ERA in eight career starts (4-2). He has never allowed more than three earned runs in a start against Cleveland, but lost the last meeting on April 16 by allowing two earned runs in five innings. Current Indians players bat .247 with two home runs and 43 strikeouts against the electric righty.
Cleveland will send out 23-year-old Trevor Bauer, who sees Detroit for the third time this season. Bauer has allowed six runs in 12.1 innings against the Tigers this season, earning a win and a no-decision. Tiger batters hit .304 with five home runs against the righty in 46 at-bats.
The teams will play a day-night double header on Saturday before finishing the series on Sunday afternoon. Detroit begins the second half of the season by playing 31 games in 31 days, with the only off-day coming on July 28. It has played the fewest games of any team in the MLB.