By MATT BECKER, The Associated Press
DETROIT (AP) – A huge sweep over the team they were chasing in the AL Central has pulled the Detroit Tigers into a tie for first place.
Staying atop the division for another few days, at the very least, certainly seems likely.
Following an emotional weekend, the Tigers look to avoid a letdown at Comerica Park in Monday’s opener with the sputtering Indians, losers of 18 of 19 away from Cleveland.
Detroit (72-61) entered its series with Chicago three behind the White Sox after suffering a three-game sweep in Kansas City. The Tigers quickly put that disappointment behind them by outscoring Chicago 16-7 to complete the sweep and move into a first-place tie for the first time since July 25. The last time Detroit was alone atop the division was two days earlier.
“We had a good weekend,” Jim Leyland said after Sunday’s 4-2 win. “We just beat a very good team, a team that’s been in first place for most of the year. It’s going to be hard to take that away from them.”
While the division race could go down to the wire, Detroit is in a good position for the short term.
The Tigers lost the season’s first five meetings with the Indians, but have won five of seven since. They last met in early August, and outscored Cleveland 26-11 in sweeping a three-game series at Comerica.
Not surprisingly, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder have led the way lately in the series.
Cabrera – hitting .458 in his last six games overall – is batting .324 with four homers and 12 RBIs in the last nine meetings, while Fielder is 8 for 14 with one home run and seven RBIs in the last four.
Delmon Young is batting .433 with four home runs and 11 RBIs in his last eight games and hit a tiebreaking three-run homer in the sixth inning Sunday.
Also seeming to work in Detroit’s favor is Cleveland has lost all six starts by probable starter Corey Kluber (0-3, 5.16 ERA). The rookie right-hander, who has never faced the Tigers, allowed four runs and eight hits in Wednesday’s 8-4 defeat to Oakland.
The Indians (56-78) open a 10-game road trip in Detroit after Sunday’s 8-3 loss to Texas, their 16th defeat in 18 games.
“We’re hoping we can have a better record than we had the last two times we went on the road,” Manny Acta told the Indians official website.
By this standard, a two-win trip would still be considered a success after their last two trips were 1-8 and 0-9.
Shin-Soo Choo, who is expected to be back in the lineup after getting Sunday off to rest, is batting .219 with three home runs, seven RBIs and 21 strikeouts in his last 19 road games. He is hitting .319 with two homers and 11 runs against Detroit, though, and is also 3 for 7 lifetime against scheduled starter Anibal Sanchez (2-4, 5.29), who is starting to look comfortable with his new team.
After permitting at least five runs in three of his first four starts since being acquired from Miami, Sanchez has yielded three runs over 13 2-3 innings in his last two. He gave up one run in seven innings to the Royals on Wednesday, but was saddled with a 1-0 loss.
Despite his early struggles with the Tigers, the righty had no trouble keeping the Indians’ bats in check on Aug. 3, allowing two runs in six innings of a 10-2 win.
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