This is what September baseball is all about.
A second-place team awaiting the division leaders in a do-or-die series, with wild winds blowing and waves pounding the lakeshore not far distant from the park.
Welcome to Indians-Tigers from September 5-7.
Here is the bottom line: Detroit leads the American League Central by 6.5 games and has a magic number of 18 to win the division, after having just swept the Chicago White Sox to 8.5 games back and -- while not eliminated, obviously -- as good as dead in the race, leaving it up to two teams.
And the way Detroit swept. Decisive win Friday; comeback win from a 7-run deficit on Saturday; 18-2 win on Sunday.
The Indians, needless to say, have their work cut out for them. And truly, anything less than a sweep for Cleveland would leave The Good Guys with a deficit hard to overcome once the Tigers leave town, but with that being said, winning two-of-three would at least keep things interesting.
But bluntly, if the Tigers win two-of-three, or sweep, it is just about over.
The last time the Indians faced the Tigers for three games, they knew that they would have the advantage of not having to face Detroit ace Justin Verlander. Unfortunately, that did not prevent the Tigers from sweeping in Detroit.
This season the Tribe is 5-1 vs. the visitors from Michigan at Progressive Field. The one loss was to...wait for it...Verlander. And Cleveland comes in to this series knowing that Verlander will be going on Wednesday afternoon.
So the stage is set, now let's look at the matchup for today's game.
Ubaldo Jimenez will make his seventh start for the Indians, and obviously none has been bigger. Jimenez (2-1, 5.56 ERA with the Tribe) faced Detroit at Comerica Park back on August 21 and fared poorly, going only 3.1 innings and giving up nine hits and eight runs in his worst performance since coming to Cleveland. The Indians made a game of it that day, losing 8-7, but Jimenez simply has to be at his best today. This is what the Tribe acquired him for, and it is time for him to deliver.
Jimenez is 2-3 lifetime vs. Detroit with a high 5.93 ERA in 27.1 frames of work.
Detroit will counter with Doug Fister, and the bad news is, now that he has settled in with his new team after coming over from the Mariners, Fister is on a roll.
Overall with Detroit, Fister is 3-1, and in his last three starts, encompassing 21.2 innings, Fister has allowed exactly two runs. Included in the stretch of excellence was a 10-1 win over the Tribe on August 20, a game in which Fister went seven innings, allowing six hits and a lone run.
Overall Fister is 1-2 vs. Cleveland, but with a low 3.12 ERA in 34.2 innings.
This series will continue on Tuesday night when Fausto Carmona squares off with Rick Porcello, before wrapping up on Wednesday, with the aforementioned Verlander taking on Justin Masterson.