Detroit Tigers News

Detroit Tigers: Previewing the Cleveland Indians

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CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 6: Closing pitcher Cody Allen #37 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates with catcher Yan Gomes #7 after the Indians defeated the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field on April 6, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Indians defeated the Royals 3-2. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 6: Closing pitcher Cody Allen #37 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates with catcher Yan Gomes #7 after the Indians defeated the Kansas City Royals at Progressive Field on April 6, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Indians defeated the Royals 3-2. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /
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The Detroit Tigers have no off days this week, as they’ll head to Cleveland to play a four-game set against the defending AL Central champion Cleveland Indians.

The Detroit Tigers have clawed their way to a .500 record after sweeping the Chicago White Sox last week. This week will pose their greatest challenge yet, as they have four straight against the Cleveland Indians, followed by three at home facing the New York Yankees.

For now, let’s focus on Cleveland. The projected pitching matchups are as follows:

Monday, April 9: Francisco Liriano vs. Corey Kluber

Tuesday, April 10: Matthew Boyd vs. Josh Tomlin

Wednesday, April 11: Jordan Zimmermann vs. Carlos Carrasco

Thursday, April 12: Michael Fulmer vs. Trevor Bauer

With four consecutive games, these two teams will get to see nearly all the starters they have to offer. Only Mike Fiers and Mike Clevinger will not start a game in this series.

The top matchup will be Thursday’s bout between Fulmer and Bauer. Bauer is coming off a strong start against the Royals where he went eight innings, surrendering one run and striking out seven. He has struck out 14 in 13 innings on the season, and looks to be joining Cleveland’s already vaunted pair of aces in Kluber and Carrasco.

That’s not to say Bauer will coast to an easy victory, not as long as Fulmer continues to mow hitters down. The young right-hander has a 0.68 ERA, having only surrendered one run in his first two starts. Thursday’s game should be a doozy.

Cleveland’s Hitters

Michael Brantley‘s return to the lineup gave Cleveland a nice boost, that was immediately eradicated with the news that right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall will miss 4-6 weeks with a hamstring strain.

Still, Cleveland has an incredibly deep infield and will give the Tigers fits up and down the lineup. Infielders fill the top three spots in the order, with SS Francisco Lindor, 2B Jason Kipnis and 3B Jose Ramirez rounding out the 1-3. Edwin Encarnacion and Michael Brantley are typically the 4-5 hitters, although Brantley often sits against left-handers.

Yonder Alonso, who had an unexpected power surge in 2017, plays first base and typically hits sixth in the lineup. Alonso is only hitting .182 so far however, and struggles against left-handed pitching. The Tigers should be able to keep his bat quiet this series.

Yan Gomes is the starting catcher. He went deep on Sunday against the Royals, but is hitting just .143 on the season.

Some combination of Brandon Guyer, Bradley Zimmer and former Tiger Rajai Davis will round out the rest of the lineup. The Indians have some speed near the bottom of the order, and James McCann will need to be ready to throw some would-be base stealers out.

What to look for

How does Daniel Norris adjust to the bullpen?

Norris had a spectacular appearance out of the pen on Thursday, throwing 3.1 innings and giving up one run, while striking out six. The plan is to have him pitch in long relief for the time being, while remaining stretched out as a potential starter. It will be interesting to see how Norris fares in the bullpen, and if that impacts his eventual role with the Tigers.

How does Detroit’s offense handle elite pitching?

Kluber, Carrasco and Bauer are likely going to be the three best pitchers Detroit has faced so far this season. The team has already been shutout twice on the year, by Trevor Williams and Jake Junis. They’ll need to find their rhythm on offense, which will be extremely tough against one of the best pitching staffs in the big leagues.

Next: Should the Tigers trade for Blake Swihart?

Playing the rival Indians is always a fun, although sometimes frustrating, endeavor. With the two teams in very different stages of competing, this could be a tough year for the rivalry. Expect the Detroit Tigers to take one every now and again, but Cleveland should compete for the AL pennant once again in 2018.

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