Victor Martinez has been locked in at the plate during Detroit’s torrid stretch, which includes the Tigers’ longest road win streak in 30 years.
Judging by recent performances against the Cleveland Indians, Martinez and the Tigers could stay red-hot when they face his former club in Monday night’s series opener at Progressive Field.
Martinez helped spark Detroit (27-12) to an 11th consecutive road win and sixth in a row overall Sunday with a two-run homer in a 6-2 victory over Boston. Ian Kinsler had four of the Tigers’ 15 hits, their most since a season-high 18 against Houston on May 6.
"Our coaches, our staff make sure we got out there ready to play," Miguel Cabrera said. "You always want to do that. It’s the way to play. You feel more comfortable."
Martinez is batting .364 with three homers during an eight-game hitting streak, and is batting .419 during Detroit’s longest road win streak since it started 17-0 in its 1984 championship season.
Martinez is hitting .380 with six homers during the Tigers’ 15-3 overall stretch and has been even better against the team he played for in his first seven-plus seasons from 2002-09. The designated hitter is batting .414 with four homers and 13 doubles in his last 29 games against the Indians (19-25), and .429 with 20 RBIs in his last 12 in Cleveland.
Detroit has won 15 of 18 matchups with its AL Central rivals, including a split of two games April 16-17. It went 9-1 at Progressive Field in 2013.
The Indians enter having been outscored 34-8 during a four-game losing streak and are trying to avoid a season-high fourth consecutive home loss. They suffered a 13-3 defeat to Oakland on Sunday, and are 1 for 25 (.040) with runners in scoring position in their last four games.
"What we’re doing right now is not good enough, we’ve got to play better," said manager Terry Francona, who jumbled his lineup before that loss. "That’s on me. I need to have better answers and have our guys more prepared. And we will."
Corey Kluber (4-3, 3.38 ERA) has been one of the bright spots for Francona’s club this month, going 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in three starts. He gave up two runs and four hits in seven innings Wednesday in a 15-4 drubbing of Toronto.
The right-hander yielded two runs over 13 2-3 innings in his final two starts against Detroit last season but did not get a decision in either game.
Kluber, though, allowed Martinez to go 6 for 11 against him in 2013 and Cabrera to go 5 for 11 with three home runs.
Cabrera, who had three hits Sunday, is batting .426 with five homers and 20 RBIs in his last 12 games and .413 during the road win streak. He is also batting .387 in his last nine games against the Indians.
"Miggy and Victor have been hitting well all season long," Detroit’s first-year manager Brad Ausmus said.
Ausmus will give the ball to Drew Smyly (2-2, 2.70), who has a 2.22 ERA in his last four starts. He gave up one run and struck out seven over six innings in Tuesday’s 4-1 win in Baltimore but didn’t get a decision.
Smyly gave up four runs in six innings in his only start against Cleveland, a 4-2 home loss June 5, 2012. He faced the Indians eight times last season out of the bullpen.
Michael Brantley, batting .339 while hitting safely in 15 of his last 16 games, is 4 for 7 lifetime against Smyly. Asdrubal Cabrera, hitting .421 in his last 10 contests, is 3 for 7 versus the left-hander.