The Detroit Tigers enter their three-game series against the Cleveland Indians trailing by 5.5 games with 7 games remaining until the All-Star Break. If the Tigers are going to clinch their first series victory over the Cleveland Indians this season, their starting pitching will have to lead the way.
Entering Monday’s series, the Tigers have an 0-9 record versus the Indians while being outscored 60-20, and a 44-29 record versus the rest of their schedule with 382 runs scored while surrendering 329.
Pitching has led the way for the Indians as they lead the American League with a 3.42 team ERA with their starters totaling a 3.53 ERA. Tigers starters have a staff ERA of 4.60 with their team ERA at 4.52. Offense has led the way for the Tigers against everyone except the Indians.
If the Tigers are going to win this series, their starters have to be better (i.e. no four-home-run innings from your ace while trying to get swept) and their offense has to score more than three runs in a game, a feat they have only accomplished twice.
Starting pitching is usually important, but it is magnified in this series because of the amount of use the Cleveland bullpen endured this weekend in Toronto. In a 16-inning game, the Indians used all of their relievers and they had to burn another starting pitcher.
The next day, they turned to former starter Zach McAllister to give them innings, but he only lasted one inning, forcing the Indians’ bullpen to pitch a full eight innings. In their series finale Sunday, Corey Kluber could only give the Indians 3.1 innings, forcing the bullpen to pitch 2.2 innings before they surrendered and inserted Chris Gimenez, a catcher, to pitch.
If the Tigers can get into the Indians’ bullpen early in games, they will see tired pitchers who will be ripe for run scoring.
Both sides will have strong starting pitching on paper this series. The three pitching matchups for the series are Daniel Norris vs. Danny Salazar, Jordan Zimmermann vs. Carlos Carrasco, and Michael Fulmer vs. Josh Tomlin.
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While starting pitching will be important, the Tigers will also need their defense to step up to prevent run scoring. The Tigers are the second worst defensive team in the AL at -45 runs saved, while the Indians are slightly below average at -6. If the Tigers want to improve their run prevention, their defense will need to improve to just be average, and stop hurting their pitching staff.
With their current six-game winning streak going for them and the Cleveland Indians’ two-game losing streak going for them, too, the Tigers have a good chance of finally getting their first win against The Tribe.
They’ve also got a good chance of getting at least one win with Fulmer on the mound in the three-game series.