Tribe aims to end first half with series win
Cleveland (35-53) at Detroit (47-39), 1:05 p.m. ET
DETROIT -- Not an easy way to start a vacation. Before taking off for the All-Star break, the Indians will face a pitcher who'll be in St. Louis for the Midsummer Classic, Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander.Verlander has been dominant against the Indians this season. In two games, he's allowed a total of one run and four hits in 16 innings with 22 strikeouts. He can frequently touch the upper 90s with his fastball.
"He throws the ball hard," Indians left fielder Shin-Soo Choo said. "When the ball's coming at you, you think you can hit it. But it just takes off and you end up fouling it off. You get a lot of foul balls."
Manager Eric Wedge knows that Verlander can be, at times, almost unhittable.
"He has a great arm," Wedge said. "When he's getting that breaking ball over, he's that much tougher."In Sunday's rubber game, the Indians will counter with right-hander Tomo Ohka, who has a simple strategy against the Tigers.
"Just keep the ball down," he said.
Ohka won't do anything different against the Tigers than he has any other time on the mound.
"I can't change anything. What am I going to do, throw the ball 100 miles per hour? I don't think so."In order for Ohka to be successful, Wedge says the righty has to do what any pitcher needs to do in order to win games in the big leagues -- locate his pitches.
"First and foremost, throwing the ball where he needs to throw it. He's a veteran guy. He trusts his stuff," he said.Before Saturday night's victory, the Indians had lost six in a row to the Tigers. What's Detroit's secret? Don't ask Tigers manager Jim Leyland.
"I have no idea," Leyland said. "They have a great hitting lineup."
Leyland is hoping the Indians bats stay cold, at least until they get out of town after this series.
"They won't struggle before it's over, they're too good," Detroit's skipper said.There are signs the Indians hitters are heating up. Ryan Garko is working on a 10-game hitting streak and is batting .295 in that stretch. Grady Sizemore is hitting .320 in his last seven games and has 18 RBIs in his past 19 games. Travis Hafner is breaking out a bit as well. Since his June 5 return from the disabled list, he is batting .292. The numbers show, this season, the Indians need to score a lot of runs to win. They is just 2-32 when scoring three runs or fewer. Wedge says he sees signs his offense is becoming more consistent.
"The guys are figuring things out," he said. "I feel like we've competed well offensively in the first half, but I feel we'll do better in the second half. Guys are getting healthy."Wedge likes the way Garko has been swinging the bat. As for Hafner, Wedge said, "I think he's putting up good ABs. He's using the whole field. He still has a lot of power." Pitching matchup
CLE: RHP Tomo Ohka (0-2, 5.65 ERA)
The veteran Ohka has bounced back and forth between the Tribe's rotation and bullpen since his May 28 callup from Columbus. He is 0-2 with a 6.35 ERA in three starts and 0-0 with a 4.63 ERA in three relief appearances. DET: RHP Justin Verlander (9-4, 3.59 ERA)
Verlander's final outing before the All-Star break shouldn't affect his availability for the Midsummer Classic two days later, but it gives him a chance to have 10 wins by the break for the third time in his four Major League seasons. Two of those wins were back-to-back victories over the Indians in early May, combining for 16 innings of one-run ball on four hits with 22 strikeouts. His last win Tuesday at Kansas City was nearly a short one with 55 pitches through two innings, but he recovered to retire 10 straight Royals, including six strikeouts in an eight-batter span, to salvage a quality start with 11 strikeouts over six innings. Tidbits
Baseball America released its list of the top 25 prospects in baseball. Two of them are in the Indians' system. Catcher Carlos Santana, acquired from the Dodgers in the Casey Blake trade, came in at No. 7. Outfielder/first baseman Matt LaPorta, who came over in the trade that sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers, is No. 22 on the list. "Both are good young players," Wedge said. "They still have some work to do. They have a great deal of ability. Sometime, sooner or later, we'll probably get another look at them." ... Wedge has no major plans for the All-Star break. "I'm just going to lay low," he said. Tickets
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Matt Wentworth is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.