Series Preview: Cleveland Indians vs. Detroit Tigers

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What a series, what a week, what a team. The Cleveland Indians man, they have become a monster and I don’t know if Cleveland or anywhere can handle them. From a beast of a Jamaican leading the rotation (and going toe to toe with King Felix and winning!) to names big, small and unknown coming through in the moments, what’s to hate? Besides an overuse of cream uniforms?

But just because the Indians are 18-4 in their last 22 games, this doesn’t mean it’s time to sit back and reminisce. Even with a 2.5 game lead over the preseason favorite Detroit Tigers, it’s never too early to make a little space, and another one of those two game quick shots that keep happening is another chance.

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The Tigers, unfortunately, are still not a bad team. They got into a slug fest on Sunday night with the Texas Rangers and even the unstoppable might of Miguel Cabrera wasn’t enough to save them. Even so, few teams can stand blow for blow with the Rangers on a pure power level. Miguel was something more than man that night, three homers and a bases loaded walk, there’s got to be a bigger term than just “locked in” to describe what he is. Besides monstrous.

We all know Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez, but intrigue continues to waft about the Tigers. Of note, Avisail Garcia, AKA Little Miggy. Though he’s hitting only .200 in the early goings and homered for the first time recently, it’s a little haunting to see him in the batter’s box. He IS Miguel Cabrera, with a little more speed. That’s got to be pressure or a guy, to have the best hitter around, maybe the best player Venezuela has ever produced, as your mentor and someone you’re compared to every day, that’s just rough. He had 51 plate appearances last year and stacked up a 90 OPS+, I’m just intrigued as to what he could become. With Austin Jackson on the DL with a hamstring problem, he should get a good chance, until he starts hitting and Leyland benches him.

Meanwhile, what the hell is happening with Jhonny Peralta? He’s got an .848 OPS and is hitting .320, becoming an integral part of that offense. He was always alright at the plate in Cleveland, but he’s having a brilliant year. My irritation is tempered by seeing his .386 BABIP when his career is .310, so there’s some room for regression, but thus far he’s been gangbusting. Hopefully this week he plays like he always did in Cleveland, frustratingly and stone-footed, but this time giving Tigers fans the adjeda.

You know, when you look at this team they’re a little top-heavy. Obviously Cabrera, Prince and to a lesser extent Martinez are the core, but if Jackson is hurt you have to play the young Garcia more along with Don Kelly and Andy Dirks. Leyland loves Kelly for whatever reason while Dirks is a mystery. He smacked and strolled to an .859 OPS last year, but only played 88 games due to an Achilles injury. Whether that was just smoke and mirrors remains to be seen. Peralta will cool off, and Omar Infante is playing strong with a host of extra-base hits and a .789 OPS. But there’s really less here than we should be seeing.

Shoot, I forgot, Torii Hunter. He’s good, even at 37. Really a great pickup for the Tigers, he brings a solid bat and a great pair of legs (what?) and arm to the outfield. I guess you can be top-heavy when one of those guys is Miguel Cabrera and another one hit 50 homers. It’s just an interesting roster, pitchers can almost relax for whole innings because the bottom of the order is so absent at the plate.

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The Tigers bullpen interests me, and deserves some attention. While they’re by no means shutdown, there’s some talent there, besides Jose Valverde (though I do love his dancing). Joaquin Benoit is one of the best setup men in the game, and it’s kind of cool he has embraced that role so. He and Al Albuquerque (MAN I wish he was an Indian) can get the strikeout, Benoit with 24 in 19 innings and Albuquerque with 26 in 14.1. That second one is amazing really, except he’s walked 13 and given up another 13 hits. He’s like their own Chris Perez, a walking heart attack. Drew Smyly could be a starter one day, but right now is a solid bullpen man with a .964 WHIP and 29 strikeouts in 28 innings.

Darin Downs, another lefty, is having a nice young season, 20.2 innings with 25 K’s and a .968 WHIP. I know nothing more about him, but we’ll see what we see. With the Indians sometime proclivity for striking out, this could be a problem going in, except there’s also the matter of late inning magic, which Cleveland seems to have a lock on. Unstoppable force, meet immovable object. Plus, they still might go to Valverde for the save. He’s like instant late inning comeback for the other team.

There’s little to be said of the Indians at this point. They plainly aren’t worried about facing the Tigers – heck, even if they lose both games they’ll be in first. Jason Kipnis is hitting .375 in his last ten games with three homers, so that was my major worry offensively. With Mark Reynolds coming back to earth a bit along with Carlos Santana, it behooves Asdrubal Cabrera to become that great bat we all know he can be. He;s back to hitting around .280 his last 10 games, but he needs to launch a couple of homers for me to get jazzed. Oh, and Yan Gomes and Ryan Raburn, in moderate doses, are the bees’ ankles. Not even the knees, I figure the ankle is a better joint anyway. Verlander better watch out.

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