Cleveland's Masterson toes rubber versus Tigers

Cleveland right-hander Justin Masterson tries to strengthen his case to be included on the American League All-Star team on Friday when the Indians open a four-game series against the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland, of course, will skipper the AL team at the Mid- Summer Classic and could be eyeing Masterson, who is 10-6 this season with a 3.48 ERA. He tossed his third shutout of the season on Sunday in Chicago, as he scattered six hits and struck out eight.

"The defense, that's what was working great for me -- those guys were working hard," Masterson said. "They took a real aggressive approach, swinging early. It's all going to come back to those guys out there doing their thing. They made a lot of double plays, and they were pretty double plays."

Masterson needed that showing, as he had gone 2-4 with a 5.40 ERA in his previous seven starts.

The sinkerballer lost to the Tigers earlier this season and is just 2-7 lifetime against them with a 5.09 ERA.

Masterson will also try to help Cleveland gain some ground on the American League Central-leading Tigers, who lead the Indians by just 1 1/2 games.

Cleveland lost a game in the standings on Thursday, as it dropped its second straight game to Kansas City after winning five in a row.

While the Indians were losing their series at Kauffman Stadium, the Tigers made the most of their opportunity in Toronto, where Justin Verlander pitched them to an 11-1 win.

"He threw exceptionally well. He looked like he was in command the whole game," Leyland said.

The Tigers have won three in a row after posting just one win in its previous seven games.

Getting the call for the Tigers on Friday will be righty Rick Porcello, who is 4-6 with a 5.21 ERA. Porcello lost his third consecutive start on Sunday against Tampa Bay, as he allowed three runs and eight hits in six innings.

"I've made some adjustments, but I still need to keep making some more to avoid innings like the (two-run) fourth," Porcello said after his last start. "Six innings, three runs, kept us in the game. I'll take it."

Porcello, though, picked up a six-game suspension after the game for throwing at the Rays Ben Zobrist. He has appealed, though.

Detroit has won six of its eight matchups with the Tribe this season.