With a 5-3 win at Progressive Field, which brought their record to 2-6 against Cleveland this season, the Tigers quickly regained a share of the division lead. But still it served as a reminder of the race heating up and how close it remains.
Therefore, Thursday's series finale is important, as ace Justin Verlander takes the mound and the club can ill-afford to waste one of the reigning AL Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner's starts.
That's what occurred the last time Verlander faced the Indians on May 24. He took an eight-inning complete-game loss, as he allowed two runs and the Tigers' offense couldn't provide the run support.
"Any time you can win a game against Verlander, it's pretty impressive," Indians manager Manny Acta said after the game, "because that means that your starter did something really good and you played pretty much perfect baseball defensively."
It was Justin Masterson who outdueled Verlander in the last meeting. The second time around the task will be allotted to 24-year-old Zach McAllister. McAllister tossed a career-high 7 2/3 innings vs. the Orioles in his last start but took the loss.
"He was terrific. He was as good as I've seen anybody here," Acta said. "He did a fantastic job."
Defensively, the Indians hope to rebound from Wednesday's loss. Two errors resulted in two Tigers' runs.
As Acta stated back in May, both the pitcher and defense must be perfect, especially considering the roll Verlander is on. The 29-year-old right-hander is riding a three-game winning streak into Wednesday's start and has given up just 11 hits and three runs through 25 innings in July.
Tigers: Dirks progressing on rehab
Outfielder Andy Dirks appears to be closing in on his return to the big leagues. Dirks has been sidelined since May 31 with right Achilles' tendinitis, but he is doing well on rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo. His return means the Tigers will need to make a roster move, but manager Jim Leyland isn't ready to declare what it will be. "What are you going to do when Dirks gets back? I don't know, so there's no sense going there," Leyland said Wednesday. "I have no idea what's going to happen."
Verlander has faced the Indians more than any team in his career and is 13-12 with a 4.70 ERA in 28 starts. He is 6-9 with a 5.79 ERA in 16 starts at Progressive Field. His 204 strikeouts are also the most vs. any team.
Indians: Tribe makes room for Lillibridge by designating Cunningham
To make room for newly acquired utility man Brent Lillibridge, the Indians designated Aaron Cunningham for assignment Wednesday. The 26-year-old Cunningham hit .175 with a home run and seven RBIs in 72 games for the Tribe this year. "We like Aaron," Acta said. "He was a good teammate. He did everything we asked him to do. We just felt that by having a guy like Lillibridge. ... It was more convenient."
Carlos Santana's streak of 18 straight games reaching safely was snapped Wednesday night as he went 0-for-4. However, he is batting .288 with six doubles, two home runs and eight RBIs in his past 19 games.
McAllister also pitched against the Tigers earlier in the season, taking a no-decision and allowing two runs on eight hits through 6 1/3 innings. He is winless in two career starts vs. Detroit, but owns a 1.59 ERA.
Prince Fielder and his wife, Chanel, will be hosting Uncork for a Cause, a special event on Aug. 2 to support two local non-profit organizations -- Common Ground and Ele's Place. Guests will get the opportunity to meet the Fielders as well ass purchased autographed bottles of the slugger's new win, called 2010 Prince Fielder Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque joined Class A Lakeland to begin an injury rehab assignment He struck out two batters and allowed two runs on three hits, retiring two of the five batters he faced.
Miguel Cabrera is hitting .340 (103-for-303) with 15 doubles, 19 home runs and 66 RBIs in 78 games against Cleveland since the start of the 2008 season. He is tops among all active Major League players with 19 home runs and 66 RBIs vs. the Indians during that stretch.