The top contenders in the AL Central have been flexing their muscles lately with the Detroit Tigers winning eight straight and 12 of 13 while the Cleveland Indians have won 10 of 11.
The Tigers have been winning even without Miguel Cabrera and they won’t have Jhonny Peralta in the lineup for Monday night’s opener of a four-game set in Cleveland.
Peralta, the former Cleveland shortstop, has accepted a 50-game suspension from Major League Baseball for his links to the Biogenesis of America clinic, which was accused of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs.
Batting .305 with 11 homers and 29 doubles, Peralta’s loss could spell trouble for Detroit (64-45), which has a three-game lead over the Indians (62-49).
The Tigers, though, tried to prepare for the expected suspension by acquiring Jose Iglesias from Boston at the trade deadline. He is 2 for 11 with a homer in three games for the Tigers.
Cabrera has started three times in Detroit’s last 11 games due to hip and abdominal problems, with the Tigers losing once in that span. He returned from a three-game absence Sunday with a pinch-hit single in the 12th inning and Detroit went on to score the winning run in that frame for a 3-2 victory over the White Sox that capped an 8-0 homestand.
The Tigers haven’t been able to gain much separation on the Indians, who have won 11 straight at home for their best streak since a 14-game run April 3-May 10, 2011. That’s the same year the Tigers last won nine in a row overall Sept. 2-14.
“They’ve got a real good team. You know they led the division more games than we did last year,” manager Jim Leyland told the Tigers’ official website.
Cleveland is one-half game ahead of Texas for the AL’s second wild-card slot entering the Tigers’ final 2013 visit to Progressive Field.
“I’d rather be 10 up,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “But this makes this really exciting. We get to play the best team in our division and see how we can do.”
The Tigers have taken nine of 12 meetings, with Cabrera leading the way with five homers and 14 RBIs. Torii Hunter has added 10 RBIs, Victor Martinez is hitting .370 and Andy Dirks has scored a team-high 11 runs.
Michael Brantley leads the Indians with 11 RBIs in the 12 matchups, but no other Cleveland hitter has more than six. Jason Kipnis has struggled in going 10 for 49 (.204) with 17 strikeouts.
“We’ve got to defend our home territory,” Brantley said. “We’ll see where we stand.”
The pitching matchup between right-handers Monday could favor the Tigers based on their history against Cleveland scheduled starter Corey Kluber (7-5, 3.77 ERA), who is 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in three 2013 matchups
Cabrera is 4 for 8 with three homers against him this year. The Indians have won six straight home starts by Kluber, who is 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA in that span.
Anibal Sanchez (9-7, 2.59) seeks his first three-game win streak for Detroit after allowing two runs over 19 innings over his past three outings. He won his lone start against the Indians on July 6 by allowing one run over five innings in a 9-4 victory to improve to 3-1 with a 1.76 ERA in five outings against them.