Indians-Tigers Preview

Danny Salazar battled through a draining illness in his last outing to extend an impressive run that ranks him as one of the AL’s stingiest pitchers over the last two months.

The Detroit Tigers only wish they could pinpoint what’s been wrong with Alfredo Simon lately.

Simon hasn’t been the same since he beat the Cleveland Indians in mid-June, and he’ll oppose Salazar looking to help the plummeting Tigers avoid a 13th loss in 15 games Saturday night at Comerica Park.

Salazar’s 2.05 ERA in nine starts since July 10 leads the AL after he allowed two runs and struck out 10 in seven innings of Monday’s 4-2 win at Toronto. Salazar (12-7, 3.27 ERA) admitted to being tired throughout that outing after being forced to miss his scheduled start against the Los Angeles Angels on Aug. 28 because of an illness.

”He didn’t take any hitters off, because you can’t,” manager Terry Francona said. ”We were keeping an eye on his endurance. I’m glad we waited a few days or that would have been more of an issue.”

Saturday marks the right-hander’s fourth straight start on the road, where he’s 3-1 with a 2.20 ERA in his last five. Salazar is 1-1 while pitching seven innings in both outings this season at Comerica Park, giving up four runs and striking out 17.

Detroit roughed him up in Cleveland on June 23, though, scoring each run in Salazar’s 4 1-3 innings in a 7-3 victory. Miguel Cabrera has a homer among three hits off Salazar this season and is hitting .364 in their matchups lifetime.

The last-place Tigers (61-73) have won nine of 13 meetings this season despite losing Friday’s series opener 8-1. Simon (11-9, 5.09) had a 2.58 ERA after pitching five scoreless innings in an 8-1 win over Cleveland on June 14, but he’s gone 4-6 with a 7.84 ERA in 13 starts since while allowing at least four runs 11 times.

Detroit hoped the right-hander was getting back on track after pitching a one-hit shutout against Texas on Aug. 20, but he’s given up 14 runs in 9 1-3 innings while dropping back-to-back starts.

Simon gave up a career-high four homers in Sunday’s 9-2 loss to Toronto. He hasn’t allowed any while posting a 2.12 ERA and winning all three of his starts against the Indians this season.

Michael Brantley has hit Simon well this year, though, and is 10 for 17 with four doubles in their career matchups. Brantley went 2 for 5 with an RBI double Friday to increase his average to .322, second in the AL to Cabrera’s .360.

Brantley is hitting .438 with two homers and six doubles in his last 15 at Detroit.

Jerry Sands hit a two-run homer and added a triple for the Indians (65-68), who have won seven of nine. They’re still fighting for the AL’s second wild card, but would need to jump four other teams.

”I don’t do anything differently against them than anyone else,” said Sands, who is 6 for 13 in four games against the Tigers this season. ”It is just one of those things that you can’t explain.”

Detroit has been outscored 102-43 during a 2-12 stretch and has dropped six of seven at home. Cabrera drove in the only run Friday for the Tigers, who learned before the game they will be without shortstop Jose Iglesias for two weeks.

Iglesias fractured his right middle finger after he was hit trying to bunt in Thursday’s loss at Kansas City.