The Detroit Tigers threw up the white flag on the season and went into rebuilding mode with a pair of big trades late Thursday, and the Cleveland Indians immediately started taking advantage. The Indians will try to push their winning streak to 10 straight and increase their lead in the American League Central out further when they visit the Tigers in the third of a four-game series on Saturday.
Detroit sent ace Justin Verlander to the Houston Astros in exchange for three prospects and moved its leader in batting average (.279), home runs (28) and RBIs (94) - Justin Upton - to the Los Angeles Angels in a pair of deals in front of the Aug. 31 waiver deadline on Thursday, and general manager Al Avila was blunt in his reasoning. “This is an obvious rebuild move,” Avila told reporters on Friday. “We’re trying to stock our farm system with the best prospects we can acquire, and that’s how we’ll move forward. Once we’ve finished this, at some point there will be a turnaround. We’re going to have a rough month of September, and next year may not be all that pretty, either. But at some point in the near future, we expect this to turn around, that some of these prospects will be coming up and making a difference. And within a reasonable time then, we should be ready to go.” Cleveland is ready to win now and swept a doubleheader from Detroit to open the series on Friday. The Indians’ staff, which is allowing an average of 1.7 runs during the nine-game winning streak, will send ace Corey Kluber to the mound on Saturday opposite Tigers righty Jordan Zimmermann.
TV: 6:10 p.m. ET, STO (Cleveland), FSN Detroit
PITCHING MATCHUP: Indians RH Corey Kluber (13-4, 2.63 ERA) vs. Tigers RH Jordan Zimmermann (8-11, 6.08)
Kluber is the only real contender to Boston’s Chris Sale in the AL Cy Young Award race and he bounced back from a rare loss by holding the New York Yankees to two runs and three hits in eight innings on Monday. The Stetson product surrendered two or fewer runs in 12 of his last 15 starts and leads the AL in ERA while sitting third in strikeouts (215). Some of Kluber’s toughest starts this season came versus Detroit, against which he is 1-1 with a 7.53 ERA in three starts.
Zimmermann snapped a four-start winless at Colorado on Monday by yielding nine hits in five innings but limiting the damage to three runs. The Wisconsin native failed to complete six innings in any of his last four turns and owns an 11.57 ERA in that span. Zimmermann was ripped for a combined nine runs and 13 hits over 8 2/3 innings in back-to-back starts against Cleveland to begin July.
1. Indians OF Lonnie Chisenhall (strained calf) came off the DL on Friday and went 1-for-3 with two runs scored in the doubleheader.
2. Detroit RHP Michael Fulmer (ulnar neuritis) will meet with Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion on his elbow and will miss at least his next two starts.
3. Cleveland DH Edwin Encarnacion is 5-for-10 with two homers, four RBIs and six runs scored in his last three games.
PREDICTION: Indians 6, Tigers 1