Indians hope hits keep coming against Tigers (Jul 08, 2017)

BY AP • July 8, 2017

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians will ride a red-hot offense into Progressive Field on Saturday night for the second game of their three-game series with the Detroit Tigers.

Cleveland has collected 44 hits in its last three games and won consecutive games Thursday and Friday by identical 11-2 scores.

One of the ring leaders has been All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor, who has tried to shake a slump for the last month that resulted in his batting average dropping into the .240s before his recent surge.

"I'm just trying to get the barrel to the ball. When you keep working hard, you'll eventually see some results, said Lindor, who was 3-for-5 with three RBIs in the Indians' 11-2 win over the Tigers.

The Indians will go into Saturday's game with some clarity in their managerial situation. Terry Francona, who has missed the last four games, will miss the next two, as he recovers from a cardiac procedure done Thursday at Cleveland Clinic to correct an irregular heartbeat.

"He's feeling really good," Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said of Francona. "His mind is at ease because of the successful procedure and also that he now knows the path in front of him. This couldn't be better news. The issue is corrected through a minor procedure, and everyone feels good about it."

Francona won't be in the dugout Saturday night or Sunday night, the last two games of the Indians' series with Detroit. Francona is scheduled to return to the dugout on July 14 in Oakland, where the Indians will begin a six-game West Coast road trip coming out of the All-Star break.

Bench coach Brad Mills will continue as the acting manager in Francona's absence. The Indians are 2-2 in the four games that Mills has managed in place of Francona.

The pitching matchup Saturday will be the same two pitchers who faced each other in Detroit on July 2 in an 11-8 Indians victory: Detroit's Justin Verlander vs. Cleveland's Mike Clevinger.

Verlander (5-5, 4.96 ERA) was the losing pitcher in the July 2 game, giving up seven runs and nine hits with three walks and no strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings.

The Indians are Verlander's least-favorite opponent. In his career, Verlander has more starts (51), more losses (23) and a higher ERA (4.78, minimum: four starts) against Cleveland than he does against any other major league team.

Verlander's career record vs. the Indians is 20-23. In three starts against the Indians this year, Verlander is 1-2 with an 11.30 ERA.

Detroit manager Brad Ausmus would like to see some better work from his bullpen, if and when Verlander has to leave the game. On Friday night, four Tigers relievers combined to pitch five innings, giving up six runs and eight hits with six walks.

"The big thing with our pen is that we have to throw more strikes, especially against a good team like Cleveland," Ausmus said.

Clevinger (4-3, 3.33) is making progress since being recalled from Triple-A in June, originally to take Corey Kluber's spot in the rotation while Kluber was on the disabled list with a strained back.

The 26-year-old Clevinger has quietly begun to string together some good starts. In his last four, he is 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA and a .169 opponents' batting average.

That includes a win in that July 2 matchup with Verlander in Detroit. In that game, Clevinger pitched six innings, giving up one run and two hits with seven strikeouts. The only blemish was five walks, which has been an on and off problem for Clevinger this year.