Detroit Tigers (74-62) at Cleveland Indians (70-64)
Time/Place: 4:05 p.m. ET, Progressive Field
SB Nation blog: Let's Go Tribe
Pitching Matchup: LHP David Price (12-10, 3.32 ERA) vs. RHP Corey Kluber (13-8, 2.52 ERA)
The Tigers begin an important four game series, their last of the season, in Cleveland on Monday, and the two teams will send a pair of ACEs to the mound for the labor day contest. The Tigers finished 16- 15 in the month of August, while the Indians were 18- 9, picking up 3-1/2 games in the standings. They're coming off a series win and pending sweep of the Kansas City Royals, pulling them closer to Detroit and Kansas City, as well as Seattle in the wild card picture.
Corey Kluber is quietly having one of the best seasons among starting pitchers in the American league, yet he receives little attention when the conversation turns to the Cy Young award. The Indians' right hander leads the American league in fWAR (yes, ahead of Felix Hernandez), trails only Chris Sale and Hernandez for the ERA title, ranks fifth in K/9 and fourth in HR/9 innings.
Kluber is clearly the ACE of the Tribe, and is a work horse, who could eclipse 200 innings this start. He trails only Hernandez and Price in innings pitched this season. He is a ground ball pitcher with five pitches in his repertoire, featuring a fastball and a sinker that sit around 93, but can get up into the mid 90's, with a curve ball/ change up that comes in around 83. The sinker is his bread and butter pitch, and the four seam fastball is his least used, although very effective offering. Fangraphs interviewed Kluber about his repertoire last September.
David Price is coming off his roughest outing as a Tiger, giving up eight runs in the third inning to the New York Yankees. He said it was "probably the worst game I've ever had in my life". In his previous start Price threw a one hitter and got no run support as the Tigers were shut out, 1- 0. Still, Price is one of the best pitchers in the game, and will dominate opponents more often than not.
Offensively, Michael Brantley and Jose Ramirez have been the hottest Indians over the past month. Terry Francona's squad doesn't bring a high octane offense, so they try to use speed to manufacture some runs.
For the Tigers, Victor Martinez remains one of the hottest hitters in the game, currently second in the batting title race with a .327 average, and the same average for the second half of the season. Torii Hunter has performed well since being moved to the No 2 spot in the order, with a line of .283 .310 .481 for an OPS of .791. Ian Kinsler has been sluggish at the plate in the second half, and the Tigers need to get his bat going in a big way.
Hitter to fear: Carlos Santana is 5 for 12 with a batting line of .417 .533 .667 and an OPS of 1.200 against Price.
Hitters to fail: The two Michaels. Brantley is just one for ten, Bourn is one for eight, and neither has managed an extra base hit nor a walk against Price.
The Tigers swept a four game series in Cleveland at the beginning of August last year to give them breathing room atop the division. The Tribe would claw back to within one game, but the division was never really in question, as Cleveland settled for a wild card spot, their first post season appearance since 2007.
While it was a four game series that helped propel the Tigers to the central division title a year ago, it has been two series in Cleveland that have set them reeling this season. A three game sereis in May when the Tigers were swept by the Indians put them into a tailspin, and the Tribe took three of four just after the All Star break, sending Detroit into their second swoon of the season, eventually knocking them out of first place. Cleveland has won seven of the twelve games against Detroit this season, with seven more to play.
Price's league leading innings pitched totals come in handy, working the bullpen avoidance plan like a charm, and the Tigers eke out just enough to come away with a victory.