Tigers Look To Extend Lead In AL Central
DETROIT – If he hopes to stop the Detroit Tigers from continuing to pound Cleveland Indians pitching, Justin Masterson will have to bounce back from one of his worst starts of the season.
Masterson looks to tie for the major league lead with his ninth victory as the struggling Indians try to avoid their 10th straight road defeat Saturday against the Tigers.
Cleveland (30-30) has dropped five in a row, losing 7-5 to the Tigers (33-26) in the series opener Friday. Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter each had three hits as Detroit improved to 3-1 on its six-game homestand and increased its AL Central lead to 3 1/2 games over second-place Cleveland.
The Tigers have averaged 7.0 runs against the Indians in winning four of six meetings this season. They’ve homered nine times in the six games and at least once in each.
Hunter has gone 10 for 28, Omar Infante is 8 for 20, Brayan Pena 7 for 14 and Andy Dirks 9 for 26 against the Indians in 2013.
They’ll try to continue that hot hitting against Masterson (8-4, 3.57 ERA), who is tied for the AL lead in wins despite his recent struggles. The right-hander has gone 1-2 with a 6.38 ERA in his last three outings.
Masterson looks to regroup after giving up seven runs over 6 1-3 innings of a 7-4 loss to the New York Yankees on Monday. He hasn’t fared well in Detroit, going 1-3 with a 6.45 ERA in four career starts, though he allowed two runs over six innings of a 3-2 win there Sept. 4.
Miguel Cabrera homered off Masterson in that contest and is batting .393 (11 for 28) with two homers against him in his career.
Jhonny Peralta is 1 for 15 with six strikeouts against Masterson in his career, while Dirks was 1 for 11 in the matchup last season.
Detroit’s Rick Porcello (2-3, 5.21) has allowed three runs in 14 innings with 18 strikeouts in his last two starts, though he’s 0-1 in those games.
Porcello carried a 2-0 lead into the seventh inning at Baltimore on Sunday, but allowed three runs without retiring anyone to lose 4-2 for his first defeat in seven starts.
“He’s certainly not in the infant stage anymore, but this guy’s still on the learning curve,” manager Jim Leyland told the team’s official website about Porcello. “This guy’s doing very well, and he’s starting to figure it out. Talent gets you here, and making adjustments keeps you here. He’s certainly gotten better.”
Porcello, however, hasn’t been able to beat the Indians lately, going 0-2 with a 4.55 ERA in his last five starts against them. He allowed two runs over six innings of a 4-3 loss to the Indians on May 12, though he wasn’t charged with the loss.
Cleveland’s Drew Stubbs has been hot on the road trip, going 6 for 14 with two homers, while Jason Giambi has homered in four of his last five games.
Nick Swisher, though, will try to break out of a 1-for-28 slump in which he’s gone hitless in his last 20 at-bats.
“I’m just a little off,” Swisher said. “I’m missing pitches that I should drive.”
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