The Cleveland Indians and the Detroit Tigers have met nine times in 2011, and the Indians lead the season series six games to three. But all of that really doesn't matter as much as the final nine meetings might. Six of those games will be in Detroit (including the final three of the season) and three will be at Progressive Field.
With the two clubs separated by only a game and a half in the AL Central, each of the final nine meetings might be said to have playoff implications, and that begins with tonight's game at 7:05 at Comerica Park.
Josh Tomlin will go for his 13th win of the season against another pitcher with a dozen victories -- Detroit's Max Scherzer.
Scherzer (12-7, 4.37 ERA) will be facing the Tribe for the third time this year, having had a no-decision on April 29 and having beaten Cleveland in Detroit on June 16. In his two previous appearances vs. the Indians, Scherzer has gone 12.1 innings and given up seven runs, so the Tribe has proven that they can at least score off of him. But Scherzer also has an ERA at home three-quarters of a run per game lower than his overall number, so let's not think it will be any kind of a cakewalk.
For his career, Scherzer is 2-3 vs. The Good Guys, with a high 5.50 ERA in 34.1 innings of work.
Tomlin, meanwhile, will be facing the Tigers for the first time this year. Tomlin was 1-1 against Detroit in his rookie season of 2010, with a 6.55 ERA in only 11 frames. Thus there is not really a template that gauges Tomlin's success rate vs. Detroit.
A nice seven- or eight-inning workout tonight could augment that success rate.
Tomlin (12-5, 3.97 ERA) is only 4-3 away from home in 2011. with an ERA of 4.88, so it is to be hoped that he will be able to pitch at a little higher level than he has thus far outside of Progressive Field.
The Indians swept the Tigers at home April 29-May 1, and also took two-of-three at Progressive Field August 9-11, but Detroit took two-of-three from the Tribe in the Motor City June 14-16.
David Huff will face Doug Fister on Saturday at 7:05, and in the series finale on Sunday at 1:05 Ubaldo Jimenez will face Rick Porcello -- or at least that is how the schedule looks on Yahoo! Sports and on MLB.com. If that is so, the Indians will catch a huge break by not having to face Justin Verlander this weekend.
We will see how it all plays out.
One thing is for sure -- if the Tribe can win at least two-of-three (or -- dare we hope -- sweep), the race will truly be on. On the other hand, if Detroit wins this series, the Indians find themselves at least 2.5 games behind with less than 40 games left.
It should be fun -- and probably more than a little tense as well. Go Tribe!