Indians bashing at home; just ask Tigers

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Indians are averaging a major league-best 5.9 runs per game at home, and that’s where they will be on Saturday, when they host the Detroit Tigers in the second game of their three-game series.

The Indians have won five games in a row and outscored their opponents 38-6 during the streak.

Cleveland’s offense is led by third baseman Jose Ramirez, who finished third in the MVP voting last season, and is having another monster year. Ramirez is in the top six in the American League in many of the key offensive categories.

Ramirez is third in home runs (22), fifth in on-base percentage (.398), fourth in slugging percentage (.609), sixth in RBIs (50), and fourth in walks (49).

“He wasn’t swinging the bat well in spring training, but once the season started — wow,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “It’s his power. His consistent contact. He doesn’t strike out. He’s a good baserunner. It’s the whole package. He’s really exciting to watch.”

So is the Indians’ Saturday starter Trevor Bauer (6-5, 2.50 ERA), who had a career year last season, and seems intent on eclipsing it this year.

In his last start, a 6-2 win over the White Sox on Monday, Bauer pitched seven scoreless innings on three hits, with eight strikeouts and two walks. That’s the latest in a two-month hot streak for Bauer. In his last seven starts he is 4-2 with a 1.99 ERA, and a .199 opponents’ batting average, while averaging 13 strikeouts per nine innings (72 strikeouts in 49 2/3 innings).

Saturday will be Bauer’s fourth start against the Tigers this year. In his first three he is 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA. However, Bauer’s career numbers against Detroit aren’t nearly as impressive: a 7-5 record and 5.95 ERA in 15 appearances, including 14 starts.

Indians pitchers have tossed an American League-high eight shutouts, including their last two games, 12-0 over the White Sox on Wednesday and 10-0 over the Tigers on Friday.

Although they are missing Miguel Cabrera, who is on the disabled list with a ruptured biceps tendon, the rebuilding Tigers are in second place in the AL Central, six games behind the division-leading Indians.

“It seems like they are playing with more energy,” Francona said. “Sometimes when a guy goes down, a team takes the mentality of ‘us against the world.’ You use whatever you can, and they are doing a good job using that.”

The Tigers on Saturday will start left-hander Francisco Liriano (3-2, 3.90 ERA), who will be activated off the disabled list, and will make his first major league start since May 26. The Tigers lost that game 8-4, to the White Sox.

Liriano, who took the loss that day, pitched five innings, allowing five runs on six hits, with eight strikeouts and three walks. Liriano was placed on the disabled list on May 30, with a right hamstring strain.

Saturday will be Liriano’s third start against Cleveland this year. The first two did not go well. In those two starts Liriano went 0-1 with a 6.10 ERA, having given up seven runs on 10 hits, three of them home runs, plus six walks in 10 1/3 innings.

In 22 career appearances (17 starts) against Cleveland, the 34-year-old Liriano is 5-7 with a 4.39 ERA.

The Tigers have struggled against the Indians in recent years. Detroit is 3-8 vs. Cleveland this year, and since June 24, 2015, the Tigers’ record against the Indians is 6-21.