Winners of three straight and four of the last five, the Detroit Tigers try to put even more distance between themselves and the Cleveland Indians on Sunday when the clubs meet at Comerica Park to close out a three-game set.
Despite being just 5-5 over the last 10 contests, the Tigers are still an impressive 21-10 in their own building this season, a mark that has helped them to a 4 1/2-game advantage in the American League Central over the Tribe following a 6-4 triumph on Saturday.
Prince Fielder, who had been held without an RBI in the previous three outings, came up with three on Saturday to give him 51 on the season, third in the AL and second on the team behind league-leader Miguel Cabrera (67). Andy Dirks also drove in a pair, giving starter Rick Porcello just enough breathing room in order to come up with his third win of the campaign.
Porcello lasted six innings, permitting two runs on three hits and a pair of walks, while striking out seven. Jose Valverde picked up his eighth save.
"I think having some run support, there's definitely some comfort to it," Porcello said after the victory. "But at the same time, you're going out there trying to put up zeros on the board regardless."
Pushed into the starting lineup for the Indians was Carlos Carrasco, who ended up with his second defeat of the campaign. Carrasco was charged with all six runs in only four innings, allowing 10 hits and issuing three walks as he struck out just a single batter.
"His stuff is electric," manager Terry Francona said of Carrasco, "but there's still some learning to do, because he didn't pitch in."
Ryan Raburn, who knocked in Carlos Santana with a groundout in the top of the fifth, came back two innings later and delivered a two-run home run as well for the visitors. However, like four of his teammates, Raburn also struck out twice in the meeting.
Originally, Anibal Sanchez was scheduled to pitch for the Tigers Sunday, but a stiff shoulder caused him to be a scratch. In his place will be Jose Alvarez, who had his contract purchased from Triple-A Toledo.
Making his major league debut on Sunday, Alvarez, a left-hander from Venezuela, had a record of 5-4 with a 2.42 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 12 starts in the minors.
Similar to the Tigers, Cleveland has also decided to change directions in regards to its starter, opting to take Scott Kazmir out of the equation after pushing back Justin Masterson, who was supposed to take the mound on Saturday.
Already just four wins shy of tying his career best for a single season, Masterson heads to the mound Sunday in search of his ninth victory. Masterson, who has logged a total of 23 wins in the previous two campaigns, is already 8-4 in 2013 although he was roughed up in his most recent outing on Monday.
Against the Yankees in New York, the right-hander permitted seven runs on nine hits and a trio of walks, striking out five over the course of 6 1/3 innings in a 7-4 setback. The defeat was the second in the last three appearances for the San Diego State product.
Masterson hasn't had much luck in his career against Detroit either, posting a 2-6 mark with a 5.09 ERA in 14 appearances.
Now ahead 5-2 in the season series, Detroit has defeated the Indians in four straight matchups.