Fiers, Tigers have work cut out vs. Indians

Mike Fiers gets one of his toughest assignments of the season on Monday night.

Not only is the Detroit right-hander facing the visiting Cleveland Indians, the heavy favorite in the American League Central Division, he’s matched against Tigers killer Carlos Carrasco.

Fiers puts that all out of his mind.

“I’ve got to do my job and pitch, no matter who it’s against,” Fiers said Sunday. “We’ve got to win that game. You don’t want to put too much emphasis on who you’re facing because you might get out of what you do. I’m not trying to overpower or do anything special. I’ve got to get early strikes, early outs, keep the ball in the yard, go deep in the game and put up zeroes.”

Thanks to the Indians’ sluggish start, the Tigers aren’t that far off the division lead despite a 17-22 record. They’re three games behind Cleveland (20-19) and can make up some ground in the three-game series.

Fiers (3-2, 4.73 ERA) has previously pitched well against the Indians, posting a 2-1 record and 2.42 ERA in four outings. He collected his third victory this season at Texas on Tuesday, lasting 5 1/3 innings and limiting the Rangers to two runs on six hits.

He was removed by manager Ron Gardenhire after throwing just 79 pitches.

“I can pitch more but it’s not up to me,” he said. “It’s a coaching decision. Ron’s managing the game. He’s not managing how many pitches I’m at. He’s just trying to figure out how to win a game that day. So wherever I’m at pitch-wise, it doesn’t matter as long as I’m doing my job and giving what I can on the day I’m starting.”

Fiers will make his seventh start after beginning the season on the 10-day disabled list with a lower back strain.

“I just feel like I’m getting healthier by the start and just progressing as a pitcher,” he said. “I’m getting to the point where I need to be. Earlier in the year, I wasn’t throwing as great but it’s a process. At this point, I feel really good. I’m happy where I’m at. Obviously, I think I could have done better in certain spots and made better pitches but that’s part of baseball.”

Gardenhire won’t use his desired lineup during the series. The usual top four in the order are all dealing with injuries. Leadoff man Leonys Martin and No. 3 hitter Miguel Cabrera are on the DL with hamstring strains. No. 2 hitter Jeimer Candelario and cleanup man Nicholas Castellanos did not play in their 5-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Sunday. Candelario has a sore left wrist, while Castellanos has a left pinky contusion after being hit by a Felix Hernandez pitch Saturday night.

Carrasco (5-1, 3.61) has an 11-7 record and 3.67 ERA in 26 career appearances against Detroit but those numbers are deceptive. He’s 7-1 against the Tigers over the last three seasons, including a complete-game victory on April 11 when he held them to one run on three hits.

Carrasco overpowered Milwaukee on Wednesday in another complete-game performance, holding the Brewers to two runs on five hits while striking out a season-high 14.

That dominant outing helped the Indians snap a four-game losing streak.

“It’s an understatement, but we needed that,” manager Terry Francona said afterward. “He can sure take his turn five days from now. He really did a good job.”

The Indians have won three of their last four, thumping Kansas City 11-2 on Sunday.