Zach McAllister will have to hope his next start looks nothing like his last few.
The struggling Indians right-hander enters Wednesday's duel with the Tigers coming off his worst outing of the season. Against the A's last weekend, McAllister went from striking out the side in the first frame to allowing eight earned runs -- including a grand slam and a three-run home run -- in the second. He took the loss, with his record falling to 3-4, and his ERA ballooned to 5.36 on the season.
After allowing three or fewer earned runs in each of his first four appearances of 2014, McAllister has stumbled to an 0-4 record with an 8.72 ERA over his last five games and gone deeper than five innings only once.
McAllister's work against the Tigers has room for improvement. Though he limited Detroit's lineup to one earned run over six innings on April 16, the team also batted a collective .346 against him in 2013, plating 13 runs across his three starts. In the wake of wins over the Tigers in the first two games of the series, however, there is hope among the Indians that the momentum will continue as they aim for the series sweep.
"The Tigers played us really well last year. They came back one more time. We didn't quit," Tribe designated hitter Jason Giambi said in reference to Monday's back-and-forth affair, which the Indians won in extra innings. "That's the biggest thing that I saw between last year and this year. It's not that we quit last year, they just had our number. Nobody looked around when they tied the game [on Monday] to say, 'OK, here it goes again.'"
On the other side, Tigers righty Max Scherzer comes into Progressive Field in the middle of yet another impressive season. In 59 innings, Scherzer (6-1) has thrown 73 strikeouts to 20 walks and owns a sparkling 1.83 ERA. Scherzer's last outing, a six-inning affair in Fenway Park, saw him keep the Red Sox scoreless while holding them to just three hits.
"His curveball was really good last night," pitching coach Jeff Jones said after the game. "He threw some good curveballs that they chased later on in the count. What he wants to do with it is throw it with two strikes. I think his curveball was probably a little bit better than his changeup was, and usually his changeup is always really good."
Known as a strikeout artist who can consistently go deep into ballgames, Scherzer has lasted at least six innings in all but one of his starts this season.
"We've done a very good job all year of making guys throw pitches. We've just been having a tough time knocking them in," Indians manager Terry Francona said of his offense.
Indians: Brantley showcasing power
Left fielder Michael Brantley delivered the decisive blow in Monday night's win over Detroit -- a walk-off home run in the 10th inning.
It was his ninth homer of the season, which is just one fewer than his total output across 151 games in 2013. Brantley has been more of a contact hitter throughout his six-year Major League career, but teammates believe that his increased maturity at the plate has driven much of the current power surge.
"It's always been there. He can hit the ball so well to left field. 'Go 2-0 and I'm going to take my base hit to left,'" Giambi said. "Now he can turn on the ball. He has that confidence, it's there and he can fall back on it."
Tigers: Pitching staff surging
Much has been made of Detroit's ability to consistently produce at the plate, especially as of late. However, its effort on the mound has been just as impressive in May.
As a team, the Tigers lead the Majors in ERA (2.56), wins (13) and have the second-lowest batting average against their staff (.227) this month. They have also maintained a collective 3.13 ERA in all road games this season.
"We get on streaks. That's baseball. Right now we're playing well on the road," Scherzer said. "If you just go out there, I don't care if you're at home or on the road, and play good baseball, you can win games. Especially in this clubhouse, if we get good pitching, the way we have been, this offense, we can beat anybody in anybody's place."
• With Giambi's activation from the disabled list on Tuesday and second baseman Jason Kipnis expected to follow suit in the near future, Mike Aviles looks to assume his previous role as a valued utility man. In his last 16 appearances, many of which have seen Aviles play an everyday part with the banged-up Tribe, he has hit at a .296 clip with six RBIs.
"Aviles works his rear end off to be ready when somebody goes down so his body doesn't fail him when he's playing every day," Francona said. "If somebody else gets hurt, he'll be ready. But that's his role. He accepts it, he prepares for it, and it works."
• David Murphy continued to show he is locked in at the plate during Tuesday's 6-2 win over Detroit, lifting a solo home run into the right-field seats in the seventh inning. He has 13 hits over his last six games, three of which have been multi-hit affairs, and he owns an impressive .291/.360 /.440 slash line in his first season with the Indians.
"He gets to two strikes and still doesn't panic," Francona said. "He keeps his hands back enough to hit a ball to left field. He's always done that."
Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.