In the midst of a three-way battle for the American League Central crown, the Cleveland Guardians are set to play 10 games in the next nine days, with the good news that the busy run includes seven games against the floundering Detroit Tigers.
The Guardians will begin a six-game road trip on Tuesday with three games at Detroit.
Cleveland sits one game behind the Minnesota Twins for the division lead with the third-place Chicago White Sox just another game back.
Detroit, which sits in last place at 24 games under .500 (43-67), has played surprisingly well against the Guardians, leading the season series 7-5.
Cleveland dropped seven of the first nine games to Detroit, then swept a three-game series in mid-July by a combined score of 20-5.
Cleveland’s Shane Bieber (6-6, 3.39 ERA) will pitch the opener of the three-game series. The right-hander has won his past two starts, including an outing against Arizona on Wednesday when he held the Diamondbacks to two runs and four hits in six innings. He struck out eight and didn’t issue a walk.
“I’m starting to figure it out,” Bieber said. “I’ve just been working on a lot of different things, and that’s a new challenge for me to have to do that in the middle of a season. But it’s something that I’m trying to embrace and enjoy and continue to just get better and to get to where I know I can be and where I want to be.”
In his previous start, Bieber held the Tampa Bay Rays to one run in seven innings.
“He’s a sharp kid,” Guardians manager Terry Francona said. “When he gets in that rhythm and he starts commanding and he starts spinning that breaking ball, he can be really good.”
Bieber is 7-4 with a 2.61 ERA in 11 career starts against the Tigers, including a 1-2 mark with a 3.48 ERA in three outings this year.
The Guardians will be looking for their third straight victory on Tuesday. They split a four-game series with the Astros over the weekend, holding Houston to a total of one run in the last two games.
“I think they’re one of the best teams in baseball,” said the Guardians’ Triston McKenzie, who tossed eight shutout innings on Sunday, “so to be able to split a series with them is big.”
The Tigers have lost 20 of their last 27 games, including seven of their last nine.
They were blanked 7-0 by the Rays on Sunday in a game with a bizarre ending. Tampa Bay broke a scoreless deadlock by scoring all of its runs in the ninth, including a pair of bases-loaded walks issued by Detroit closer Gregory Soto.
“It’s two outs and a runner on first, and you feel like you are still in command of everything,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “Even after a soft double, you still have control — you just need to get the next guy out. Soto just lost his command of everything, and it turned into an ugly ending.”
Tigers left-hander Tyler Alexander (2-5, 4.04 ERA) will start on Tuesday. He lost his last two starts but only gave up two earned runs in each outing. He lasted five innings at Minnesota on Wednesday.
Alexander is 2-2 with a 4.44 ERA in 11 career appearances (two starts) against Cleveland. He pitched twice in relief against the Guardians last month, going 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA.
–Field Level Media