The Detroit Tigers have one more chance this year to end their long losing streak to the Cleveland Indians.
The Indians have won 16 straight against their American League Central rival, including a 2-1, 10-inning victory on Wednesday. They’ll play the finale of a three-game series in Cleveland on Thursday, which will also be the last meeting between the clubs this season.
Cleveland scored an unearned run in the 10th to keep the streak alive.
“We can talk all we want to about how the game ended,” Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire told reporters. “What we should be talking about is how well we pitched and (that) we didn’t hit tonight. We just didn’t get any big hits to give ourselves a chance early in the game, so that’s the big story in the game.”
The Indians’ streak is their longest against any team since they defeated Baltimore 17 consecutive times during the 1954 season. They have a 17-1 record against Detroit this season and have gone 37-7 against the Tigers since September 2017.
Yasiel Puig got the game-winning hit on Wednesday, a bases-loaded single off the right field wall. Puig had four hits to lift his season average to .265. He has seven hits over the past two games, though he is still seeking his first homer since Aug. 16.
“Going into the back end of the season, whenever you’re able to get one of your best hitters to feel good at the plate, that’s a great thing,” fellow outfielder Oscar Mercado told MLB.com. “That’s something that can really elevate us to the next level.”
The Indians are still clinging to a slim hope they can chase down Minnesota and win the division. Their best path to the postseason, however, is to eclipse Oakland or Tampa Bay for a wild-card berth, as they are just 2 1/2 games behind the A’s and a half-game back of the Rays.
“We have been doing the best we can every day and every night when we’re going out,” Puig said Tuesday. “We try to win games and see what happens at the end of the season, because we want to go to the playoffs, and we’ve been fighting every day, and we’re going to make it.”
Right-hander Mike Clevinger will start on Thursday for Cleveland. Clevinger (11-3, 2.68 ERA) has not given up more than two earned runs in his past six outings, though he had a 10-game winning streak snapped in his most recent start.
Clevinger held Minnesota to two runs on six hits and struck out 10 in eight innings on Saturday, but the Indians were blanked. Clevinger has recorded victories over Detroit in two starts this season, holding the Tigers to one run in 14 innings while striking out 22.
He is 7-2 with a 1.82 ERA in 11 career outings (10 starts) against the Tigers.
Left-hander Daniel Norris will start for the Tigers, but he won’t come close to finishing. Norris was placed on a three-innings limit a few weeks ago.
Norris (3-12, 4.62 ERA) has gone three innings in seven consecutive outings. He held Baltimore scoreless on one hit on Saturday.
He is 3-3 with a 4.74 ERA in 11 career appearances (eight starts) against the Indians.
Right-hander Drew VerHagen (4-2, 4.99 ERA) will likely be Detroit’s first reliever. Since rejoining the team in late July, VerHagen has pitched at least four innings in 10 consecutive outings, mainly in long relief.
He tossed four scoreless innings against the Orioles after replacing Norris on Saturday in his latest appearance.
–Field Level Media