CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Indians, who may have already delivered the knockout punch to the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central Division race, go for the series sweep on Sunday as the two teams meet in the final game of their three game series.
Cleveland won the first game Friday 11-4, and prevailed Saturday in a tense 1-0 victory in 10 innings. It was a somewhat bizarre win in that Indians starter Carlos Carrasco was knocked out of the game after two pitches after he was hit by a line drive and suffered a season-ending broken hand.
Carrasco's quick exit meant a heavy work day for the Cleveland bullpen, and the relievers responded. Eight Indians relievers combined to pitch 10 scoreless innings on three hits.
It was a bittersweet win for the Indians, however, because of the loss of Carrasco. Cleveland was already down one starter as Danny Salazar is out for the remainder of the year because of a strained right forearm. So Cleveland's once-vaunted rotation is down to Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and three question marks.
“It hurts,” said Manager Terry Francona of the loss of Carrasco. “It will make this more challenging, but when we do it, it will feel that much better when we do. We'll figure it out.”
Nothing has been finalized yet, but the loss of Salazar and Carrasco probably means that Josh Tomlin and rookie Mike Clevinger return to the rotation. Tomlin started the season in the rotation but pitched so poorly in August that he was moved to the bullpen. Clevinger was 11-1 as a starter at Triple-A Columbus prior to his mid-season recall, but has pitched mostly in the bullpen.
“We'll look at things and see how we can piece it together,” Francona said. “The good news is we think we can.”
The bad news for the Tigers is they have to play the Indians again Sunday. Detroit is 1-13 versus Cleveland this season, a big reason why they trail the Indians by eight games in the Central.
“We have to find a way to score, obviously,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “We only got one guy past second base in the whole game (Saturday). I felt like we could have been a little better, but it wasn't from a lack of effort.”
Sunday's pitching matchup will be Bauer (11-7, 4.06 ERA) for the Indians and Daniel Norris (2-2, 3.81) for the Tigers.
Bauer has made two appearances against the Tigers this year, once as a starter and once as a reliever. He is 2-0 with a 5.00 ERA. In nine career appearances (eight starts) against Detroit, he is 4-2 with a 6.55 ERA.
Norris has started one game against Cleveland this year, pitching two innings and giving up two runs on three hits. In two career appearances versus the Indians, Norris has no record and a 3.60 ERA.