After a much-needed break, Detroit will get back into gear on Friday and kick off the second half of the season in Cleveland against the Tribe.
And while the Tigers don't anticipate another late-season slippage like last year when they lost the division to the Minnesota Twins in the season's final moments, it's something they can't focus on with months left to go.
"We've tried to low key it a little more this year," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I don't know the answer to that. Sometimes, like last year, people thought we did so bad at the end. We really didn't do bad at the end. We had a winning record at the end going into Minnesota."
Pitching will be key for the Tigers in this series as they try to keep pace with the White Sox and Twins out of the gate. The need for big starting pitching performances isn't lost on Leyland, both now and down the stretch.
"We will be like everybody else," Leyland said. "The key for us is pitching. That's the key for everybody, whether it's the beginning of the season, the All-Star break, two months in, one month in, that's going to be the key.
Indians manager Manny Acta also identified starting pitching as a key area for the Indians in the second half, although he took pause to name the starters as an impressive surprise to this point.
"I felt that our starting rotation exceeded expectations that a lot of people had on them," Acta said. "There was still a question mark with Jake [Westbrook] because of his health issues, and also there was still a lot of skepticism about how Fausto [Carmona] would pitch. I think they have both exceeded expectations that the outside world probably had on them."
The Indians starters will look to continue their development in the second half of the season and that starts with Thursday starter Westbrook, who enters the break with a 5-5 record to go with a 4.75 ERA. He'll be followed in the rotation by Carmona, Mitch Talbot and Justin Masterson to finish out the series.
Westbrook will duke it out with Detroit starter Max Scherzer, who also had a positive first half, on Friday. Scherzer has been one of the Tigers' more consistent members of the rotation, despite a 6-6 record. The young righty has put up big strikeout numbers, sitting down 88 batters compared to 35 walks. Scherzer will be pitching on nine days' rest, an unusually long break for the hurler.
"I don't know how it's going to be," he said. "I haven't made a start on nine days' rest in a long time. But I'm looking forward to it anyway."
Tigers: Post-break rotation set
In addition to announcing Scherzer would kick off the second half, Leyland also indicated his rotation for the rest of the series. The Tigers will turn to Justin Verlander on Saturday afternoon, will recall Rick Porcello for Saturday night's contest and finally Jeremy Bonderman for Sunday. The Tigers know they'll have to up their win totals on the road to stay in contention, an opportunity they'll get in Cleveland.
"It's pretty simple really," Leyland said. "We are going to have to do better in our division and better on the road in the second half if we are going to stay in it."
Indians: Cabrera, Choo nearing return to lineup
With the likely return of Asdrubal Cabrera, out since May 18 with a fractured left forearm, and Shin-Soo Choo, who is out with a sprained right thumb, at some point after the break, the Indians are left feeling more positive about returning to something close to their Opening Day lineup in the season's second half. Of course, they'll still be without Grady Sizemore, who is done for the season with a knee injury, but things appear to be looking up for the Tribe's offensive efforts. "Yeah, there's a good chance we will have those guys probably by the end of July," Acta said. "We might be able to have most of our full lineup."
Entering the break, the Tigers are just 16-16 in their own division this season. ... The break is much needed for the Indians who played 20 consecutive games to finish the first half. ... The Tribe will now play 20 of its next 30 games at home.
Fri, 7/16 7:05 PM ET
Tribe off to strong start
Andy Marte grooved a two-run homer in the fourth and Austin Kearns added another jack in the sixth to power the Indians. Jake Westbrook got the win, while Miguel Cabrera extended his hitting streak to 20 games.
|Jackson, A, CF||4||1||2||0||0||0||0||.303|
|Cabrera, Mi, 1B||3||0||1||1||1||1||3||.346|
|Nix, J, 2B||5||1||1||0||0||3||2||.204|
|Santana, C, C||2||0||0||1||2||0||1||.278|
|Marte, A, 3B||3||1||1||2||1||1||3||.191|
2B: Ordonez (16, Westbrook).
3B: Jackson, A (5, Westbrook).
TB: Jackson, A 4; Damon; Ordonez 3; Cabrera, Mi; Inge.
RBI: Cabrera, Mi (78), Boesch (50).
2-out RBI: Cabrera, Mi.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Boesch; Cabrera, Mi.
Team RISP: 1-for-8.
Team LOB: 5.
SB: Jackson, A (15, 2nd base off Westbrook/Santana, C).
CS: Guillen (2, 2nd base by Westbrook/Santana, C), Inge (3, 2nd base by Westbrook/Santana, C).
E: Inge (6, throw).
2B: Crowe (11, Scherzer), Donald (13, Scherzer).
3B: Crowe (3, Scherzer).
HR: Marte, A (3, 4th inning off Scherzer, 1 on, 0 out), Kearns (8, 6th inning off Thomas, B, 1 on, 2 out).
TB: Brantley; Nix, J; Hafner 2; Duncan; Kearns 4; Crowe 5; Marte, A 4; Donald 2.
RBI: Crowe (21), Donald (13), Marte, A 2 (11), Santana, C (17), Hafner (30), Kearns 2 (40).
2-out RBI: Hafner; Kearns 2.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Kearns; LaPorta; Santana, C; Marte, A.
SF: Santana, C.
Team RISP: 3-for-11.
Team LOB: 9.
SB: Santana, C (2, 2nd base off Scherzer/Avila).
DP: (Santana, C-Donald).
Pitches-strikes: Scherzer 109-65, Weinhardt 13-9, Thomas, B 9-8, Gonzalez, E 15-8, Schlereth 17-11, Westbrook 105-69, Smith, J 5-1, Sipp 19-11, Herrmann 19-14, Perez, R 12-8.
Groundouts-flyouts: Scherzer 4-2, Weinhardt 1-0, Thomas, B 1-1, Gonzalez, E 0-1, Schlereth 3-0, Westbrook 5-4, Smith, J 0-0, Sipp 1-1, Herrmann 1-1, Perez, R 3-0.
Batters faced: Scherzer 26, Weinhardt 3, Thomas, B 4, Gonzalez, E 4, Schlereth 4, Westbrook 21, Smith, J 1, Sipp 4, Herrmann 5, Perez, R 3.
Inherited runners-scored: Thomas, B 2-2, Smith, J 1-0, Sipp 2-0.
Umpires: HP: Jerry Layne. 1B: Brian Runge. 2B: Todd Tichenor. 3B: Mike Muchlinski.
Weather: 80 degrees, clear.
Wind: 5 mph, Out to RF.
Compiled by MLB Advanced Media