Suddenly, the Indians find themselves only 5 1/2 games behind the first-place Tigers, after winning the first half of a doubleheader on Saturday, 6-2, at Comerica Park.
Cleveland once trailed by as many as 10 1/2 games in the American League Central, but it has gained ground quickly on Detroit -- which has now lost three straight. The Indians have a chance to close the gap further on Saturday night in the twin bill's nightcap.
For Game 2, the Indians will give the ball to Zach McAllister after calling up the right-hander from Triple-A Columbus. McAllister struggled through his first 10 starts of the season with Cleveland, posting a 5.89 ERA before going on the disabled list with a low back strain.
After being optioned to Triple-A Columbus upon his return from the DL, McAllister made a start for the Tribe on July 12 against the White Sox, giving up three runs on four hits over seven innings in a 6-2 loss.
McAllister will be opposed by right-hander Max Scherzer. The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner struggled in May and June, posting a 4.48 ERA. But he's had a good July, going 2-0 with a 1.20 ERA in his first two starts of the month, following that up with a scoreless fifth inning with two strikeouts to earn the win for the AL in the All-Star Game.
The Indians have won 10 of their last 14 games. Their win against Detroit on Saturday was just their eighth in their last 26 games against the Tigers, and only their 14th in their last 49 at Comerica Park.
Indians: Getting defensive
Cleveland ended the first half of the season with a Major League-high 76 errors and committed No. 77 on Friday. As the Indians aim to gain ground in both the AL Central and Wild Card standings in the second half, they know that tidying up their defensive effort will be extremely important.
"We've always said that for us to be the team we want to be, we've got to play clean," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We've had a lot of periods where we haven't, and we've made it harder to win than we need it to be. You can't just push a button, though, and change that, but that's certainly something that we know we need to get better at."
Tigers: Good timing for V-Mart's return
Victor Martinez missed the final eight games of the first half with a strained lower right side, but he returned to the lineup for Friday's series opener against the Indians, against whom he's had a lot of success in his career.
Martinez was batting .365 (74-for-203) against the Tribe, with 21 doubles, nine homers and 46 RBIs in 55 games. He went 2-for-4 with a run scored on Friday, but was 0-for-4 in Saturday's early game.
"Nobody knows how I'm feeling better than myself," Martinez said on Friday of his return to the lineup. "Now I don't really feel anything [with respect to the injury], so I feel pretty good about it."
Manager Brad Ausmus has not yet said whether Martinez will play in the nightcap.
• Michael Brantley and Nick Swisher have both had success against Scherzer. Brantley is 12-for-38 (.316) with six doubles, a triple, a homer and nine RBIs against the right-hander. Swisher is 8-for-22 (.364) with two doubles, a triple and two RBIs.
• The Indians have won nine of their last 13 games. Their win against Detroit on Friday was only their seventh in their last 25 games against the Tigers, and only their 13th in their last 48 at Comerica Park.
• Miguel Cabrera, who went 2-for-4 in Friday's series opener, was batting .338 in his career against the Indians entering Saturday, with 26 doubles, 33 home runs and 109 RBIs in 120 games. He went 3-for-4 on Saturday.
Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.