The last time the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians met, Detroit swept the four-game series at Progressive Field earlier this month to take a commanding lead in the AL Central.
Another such performance could practically seal the division for the Tigers, who host the slumping Indians on Friday night in the opener of a three-game set.The Tigers (78-56), up 6 1/2 games on the Indians, can breathe a sigh of relief as Miguel Cabrera said he expects to be in the lineup Friday."I'm OK," Cabrera said. "I'll play (Friday) -- don't worry."There were doubts when the reigning Triple Crown winner limped off the field during Thursday's 7-6 walkoff win over Oakland after hurting his abdomen."Every time something like that happens, we all get scared," catcher Brayan Pena said. "But then when we see him smiling and stuff like that after the game, everybody starts breathing again."Cabrera, who leads the majors with a .359 average and 130 RBIs, is 11 for his last 25 with three home runs. The Indians (71-62) know him well -- his six home runs and 20 RBIs against them this season are his most versus any team.The last time Rick Porcello (10-7, 4.49 ERA) started, Cabrera backed him with a 3-for-4 performance, including a two-run homer in Sunday's 11-3 win over the New York Mets."It's a lot of fun to watch," Porcello said. "He's the best hitter on the planet, hands down."Porcello has been pretty good himself, going 6-1 with a 3.38 ERA in his last nine starts, allowing three runs or fewer in all but one of those outings.Porcello's only loss during that span came against Minnesota on Aug. 20, when he allowed five runs in 4 1/3 innings. He rebounded Sunday by giving up three runs in seven innings.The right-hander has been consistently brilliant against Cleveland this season, posting a 2-0 record and 1.42 ERA in three starts. He held the Indians to five hits in seven innings of a 7-0 win July 5.Porcello is hardly the pitcher the Indians want to see after they scored three times in being swept in a three-game series in Atlanta this week."When you're not knocking the ball all over the ballpark, then getting key hits is huge," manager Terry Francona said. "We haven't been able to."Nick Swisher went 2 for 12 in the series and struck out three times in Thursday night's 3-1 loss. He's 1 for 8 off Porcello this season with three strikeouts.Yan Gomes, 4 for his last 30, has fared well against Porcello with three hits in six at-bats.Hoping to lift the Indians is Zach McAllister (7-7, 3.51), who has been dominant since yielding six runs to Detroit over 2 1/3 innings of a 10-3 loss Aug. 8. The right-hander has a 1.83 ERA in winning all three starts following that poor outing, including a 7-2 victory over Minnesota on Saturday in which he gave up two runs in 7 1/3 innings.McAllister allowed seven home runs in 65 2/3 innings before going on the disabled list June 8 with a sprained middle finger on his pitching hand. Since his return, he has allowed two in 39 1/3 innings."I was able to make some adjustments during the time off with my delivery," McAllister said. "I feel a little bit more comfortable."McAllister had a 2.28 ERA in four career starts against the Tigers prior to Aug. 8.Detroit has won 12 of 13 against Cleveland, and the Indians have a 5.82 ERA in dropping 13 of 16 in the season series.The Indians added a left-handed hitter Friday, acquiring outfielder Jason Kubel from Arizona. The veteran was designated for assignment this week after batting .220 with five homers and 32 RBIs in 89 games for the Diamondbacks.Kubel, who hit 30 homers last season, had been reduced to mainly pinch-hitting duties. The Tigers will start three right-handers in this series.
The Indians acquired Jason Kubel from the Diamondbacks, but it's hard to envision a scenario where he helps the club. After a strong first 3+ months of the 2012 season, he's been unplayable over the last calendar year, thanks to what appears to be a distinct loss in bat speed.