Indians work on postseason lineup against Tigers

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Indians, who are in full-blown postseason preparation mode, will host the Detroit Tigers on Friday night at Progressive Field, the first game of Cleveland’s final homestand of the regular season.

The Indians’ magic number for clinching their third consecutive American League Central title is three. With that in mind, Indians manager Terry Francona and his staff are implementing some lineup adjustments in preparation for the postseason.

The most obvious is the addition of third baseman Josh Donaldson, who was acquired in a trade with Toronto. He made his debut with the Indians on Tuesday in Tampa Bay, batting fifth and going 0-for-4.

Donaldson is expected to be in the lineup Friday at third base. His addition has moved third baseman Jose Ramirez to second base, bumping second baseman Jason Kipnis to center field.

For Ramirez, the position switch comes at a time when he’s trying to hit his way out of his first slump of the season. After a spectacular first half of the season that landed him a start at third base for the American League all-star team, Ramirez has been in an extended slump.

From opening day through the end of July, Ramirez was hitting .298, with a 1.038 OPS. Since Aug. 1, he is hitting .228 with a .763 OPS.

In Cleveland’s 3-1 loss to Tampa Bay on Wednesday, Ramirez, who is third in the American League with 38 home runs, snapped an 86-at bat homerless streak with a homer off Rays ace Nate Snell.

Francona says he isn’t worried about his MVP candidate’s slump.

“We’ve all seen what he can do. We know it’s in there, and we know he’s going to get hot,” Francona said. “He’s an extremely intelligent hitter when it comes to knowing how teams are pitching him, and what they’re trying to do. He’s had a little lull here, but he can hit any pitch. He’s going to be fine.”

Cleveland’s starting pitcher Friday night also reflects the team’s priority of getting the rotation lined up for the start of the postseason. Because of that, Josh Tomlin (1-5, 6.63 ERA) will get a spot start.

Tomlin, who won 23 games as a member of the rotation the last two years, made six disastrous starts to begin the 2018 season and was quickly moved to the bullpen. In three starts, Tomlin was 0-3 with an 8.10 ERA. In 22 relief appearances, he is 1-2 with a 4.91 ERA.

Friday will be Tomlin’s first start since May 15, when he took the loss as Cleveland fell 9-8 to Detroit. In that game, Tomlin gave up four runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings, with four strikeouts and no walks.

In four appearances (two starts) against Detroit this year, Tomlin has no record and a 2.92 ERA. In 20 career appearances (14 starts) against the Tigers, he is 7-6 with a 4.87 ERA.

Left-hander Matt Boyd will start for Detroit. Boyd (9-12, 4.11) made his last start on Sept. 8, when he got no decision in a 4-3 Detroit loss to St. Louis. In that start Boyd was outstanding, working seven innings and allowing one run and two hits, with 11 strikeouts and one walk.

In two starts against Cleveland this year, Boyd is 0-1 with a 6.30 ERA. In his career, he has made seven appearances (six starts) against the Indians and is 1-3 with a 3.05 ERA.

The Tigers, who come into Friday’s game on a four-game losing streak, are 4-12 vs. the Indians this year.