Tigers look to bounce back against Indians

The Detroit Tigers‘ ace produced his best outing since April and they still couldn’t beat the Cleveland Indians on Friday night. The Tigers need to recover quickly with the teams matching up again Saturday afternoon.

The Indians won the opener of the three-game series 4-1 on Jason Kipnis’ three-run, ninth-inning homer off Detroit closer Shane Greene.

That wasted a big outing by Tigers starter Michael Fulmer, who held the Indians to one run in seven innings with seven strikeouts.

“Great baseball game. It always comes down to something like that at the end,” Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire said. “You make a bad pitch … I think it was a changeup and it just didn’t do anything and we give up the three-run homer.”

Cleveland extended its lead over Detroit in the American League Central to five games. The Indians, who have a 6-2 record against the Tigers this season, will go with Mike Clevinger on Saturday.

Clevinger (4-2, 3.36 ERA) got a no-decision in his last outing against Minnesota on Sunday. He allowed four runs and seven hits in six innings.

Clevinger has been stingy in six career appearances against Detroit, going 4-1 with a 2.28 ERA. He’s 2-1 with a 3.86 ERA in three starts at Comerica Park. Miguel Cabrera has just two hits in 13 at-bats against the 27-year-old right-hander, but one of them was a homer.

Nicholas Castellanos could pose a bigger threat. In his last 20 games, Castellanos is batting .368 with 10 runs scored, 11 doubles, two home runs and 10 RBIs.

Cleveland manager Terry Francona hopes that Kipnis’ homer sparks a hitting surge from his struggling second baseman. It was just Kipnis’ fourth homer this season. He’s batting .206 with 25 RBIs.

“You hope something like this really kind of gets him going,” Francona said. “When Kip hits, we’ve got a little different gear. He’s shown some really good signs lately, so hopefully something like this really gets him going.”

Clevinger will be opposed by another Mike, 32-year-old right-hander Mike Fiers (5-3, 4.33 ERA). Fiers has lasted 5 2/3 innings in each of his last three starts. He picked up the victory in his last outing Monday night, holding the New York Yankees to two runs and six hits while tying his season high with six strikeouts.

The Tigers hope Fiers can last at least that long to help out their taxed bullpen. With the makeups of early postponements, they have gotten just one day off in the last 28 days. They’ve also played two doubleheaders during that stretch.

Gardenhire said he’s firmly in Greene’s corner as his closer, even though he has given up six home runs this season.

“I’ve got to pick my battles a little bit,” Greene said. “Their guys have done a lot of damage against us.”

Fiers has enjoyed success in five career starts against the Indians, posting a 3-1 record and 2.22 ERA. That includes a six-inning outing on May 14, when he held Cleveland to one run and three hits.