DETROIT – Jose Alvarez has shined in the minor leagues as he heads into a big-league debut on some fairly short notice.
He could get plenty of run support as he prepares to face Justin Masterson.
Alvarez will be called up to make his debut Sunday as his Detroit Tigers look to take advantage of Masterson’s road woes and hand the Cleveland Indians a seventh straight defeat.
Anibal Sanchez was originally scheduled to start Sunday for Detroit, but he will have his next outing pushed back due to tightness in the back of his right shoulder.
Instead it will be Alvarez who toes the rubber. The left-hander from Venezuela is 5-4 with a 2.42 ERA and an International League-high 76 strikeouts in 12 starts at Triple-A Toledo.
“He’s been about the best pitcher in the International League,” manager Jim Leyland said.
Alvarez’s record would be better if not for poor run support from the Mud Hens, but that may not be an issue for him Sunday.
That’s because Masterson (8-4, 3.57 ERA) is 0-3 with a 9.16 ERA over his last three road starts, surrendering seven runs over 6 1-3 innings Monday in a 7-4 defeat to the Yankees.
The right-hander hasn’t faced the Tigers yet this season, going 2-2 with a 4.98 ERA in four 2012 outings against them after being 0-4 with a 5.79 ERA over his first seven career starts versus Detroit.
Miguel Cabrera is 11 for 28 with two homers against him while Torii Hunter is 6 for 18 with three home runs.
Hunter is 4 for 9 in this series as Detroit (34-26) has taken the first two games to open a season-high 4 1/2-game lead over second-place Cleveland (30-31) in the AL Central.
“It’s good to be in first place, but we have to stay focused and keep winning games so we can finish in September,” Cabrera said.
The Indians are enduring their longest slide of the season to fall below .500 for the first time since they were 12-13 on May 1.
Frustration may be setting in since manager Terry Francona was ejected between the top and bottom of the eighth inning of Saturday’s 6-4 defeat after getting between Nick Swisher and plate umpire Andy Fletcher while they were arguing.
Swisher is 0 for 8 in this series and hitless in 24 straight at-bats.
“There’s a lot of us not feeling good right now,” Swisher said.
Mark Reynolds, who leads the team with 41 RBIs, is 5 for 29 with 12 strikeouts and no RBIs over his last eight games. Michael Brantley is 0 for 8 in the series and Carlos Santana 1 for 7.
Cabrera is 1 for 6 in this series but the reigning AL MVP still managed to make an impact Saturday when he drew a nine-pitch walk after falling behind 0-2 in the second inning. Prince Fielder followed with a three-run double that put Detroit ahead for good.
“You saw a great hitter have a great, disciplined at-bat,” Leyland said. “Then, Prince came up with a huge, huge hit.”
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