Detroit’s mastery of Cleveland appears to know no bounds.
The Tigers will look to win their 11th straight game and fourth consecutive series from the Indians on Wednesday night as they try to pull away in the AL Central.
“Every game’s a big game but especially against the guys who are chasing us,” Detroit’s Justin Verlander said. “They’ve been playing extremely well. We know it’s going to be a battle this series. It’s not over yet but winning the first two is a great start.”
The Tigers have posted a 1.16 ERA during their 10-game run, the team’s longest since capturing 12 straight Sept. 2-14, 2011.
“Detroit has four aces, which is why they are so good,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
After the Indians (62-51) stole the first series between the teams at Comerica Park in May, the Tigers (66-45) have rebounded to win 10 of 11 against their division rivals, including a 5-1 victory Tuesday.
Detroit has won seven of eight at Progressive Field, where its starting pitchers have posted a 3.02 ERA this season while the hitters are batting .293 with 11 home runs.
Don Kelly had the key hit Tuesday with a three-run homer in the fifth and is batting .389 against Cleveland this season. He had hits in his first three at-bats against Justin Masterson.
“If I was Superman, he’d be my Kryptonite,” Masterson said. “There’s always a guy. He salivates when I’m up there.”
Doug Fister (10-5, 3.52 ERA) will look to regain his status as Cleveland’s top foil. He owned the Indians in 2011 and 2012, going 5-2 with a 1.83 ERA against them before he was tagged for six runs – including three homers – in six innings July 7.
Fister, who hasn’t given up multiple home runs in any other start, has always struggled against Michael Brantley, who is 9 for 28 (.321) off him with one of those home runs July 7. The other two homers came from a pair of unusual suspects in Carlos Santana, a .185 lifetime hitter against Fister, and Lonnie Chisenhall, who has an .083 average off the right-hander.
Since his rough start in Cleveland, Fister is 4-0 with a 1.29 ERA in four starts while allowing two home runs in 28 innings.
He threw eight innings of one-run ball in a 2-1 win over the White Sox on Friday.
“Things were feeling pretty good tonight,” Fister said. “I’m trying to be as consistent as possible from Day One, and things are falling our way right now.”
Cleveland, which has scored three runs in the first two games of this series, is batting .220 against Detroit this year. Santana (.224), Drew Stubbs (.214), Michael Bourn (.224) and Mark Reynolds (.189) have all struggled against the Tigers.
No one has had it worse than Jason Kipnis, however. A .292 batter with 15 home runs this season, Kipnis is hitting .193 with no homers against the Tigers. He went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts Tuesday.
The Indians hope Danny Salazar (1-0, 1.50) can provide a lift in his second career start. The right-hander retired 15 of the first 16 batters he faced in his major league debut, a 4-2 win over Toronto on July 11. He allowed a run and two hits in six innings while striking out seven.
“Everybody saw his stuff,” Francona said. “That was self-explanatory but the way he conducted himself was impressive. Nothing threw him. Nothing made him step back. He did everything. We’re really pleased.”
Salazar, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010, has already surpassed his innings total from last season.