Cleveland Indians rookie Triston McKenzie has a tough act to follow in the third game of a four-game series at Detroit on Saturday.
Starting pitchers Shane Bieber and Zach Plesac were stellar in the first two games of the series as the Indians captured 10-3 and 1-0 victories. Cleveland was saddled with an eight-game losing streak prior to venturing to Detroit.
It’s McKenzie’s turn to try to overpower the slumping Tigers (21-29), who have lost eight of their last 10.
Heading into Friday’s action, the Indians (28-23) were still an overwhelming favorite to claim one of the two wild-card spots in the American League. Cleveland sits in seventh place in the AL overall standings, and holds a six-game lead over the ninth-place Seattle Mariners with little more than a week remaining in the regular season.
Eight teams from each league will qualify for MLB’s postseason in 2020.
“Going into the postseason, it’d be nice to get some momentum moving forward,” Bieber said. “That’s what we’re working to do. A lot of good teams make it, but a lot of hot teams win it. If we can get going toward the end of the season right now, I think we’ll be in a good spot.”
It helps that Jose Ramirez is in a good groove offensively. He had two more hits on Friday and is batting .467 with four homers over the last seven games.
“I’m really happy with the team,” Ramirez said. “We’ve been playing hard and this is baseball. You can go on a streak of winning 20-something games, but also lose 15-something games. We’ve just got to keep playing hard and keep playing the baseball we know how to play.”
McKenzie (2-1, 3.91 ERA) surrendered three homers in his last start, a 7-5 loss at Minnesota on Sunday. He was charged with five runs in 4 1/3 innings, though he did record seven strikeouts.
McKenzie made a sparkling major league debut against Detroit on Aug. 22, limiting the Tigers to one run on two hits in six innings while striking out 10.
Tigers starter Spencer Turnbull (4-3, 3.94) lost to the Chicago White Sox in his last start on Sunday, allowing five runs on eight hits in five innings. Manager Ron Gardenhire felt the cold, hard stats didn’t tell the story of Turnbull’s last outing.
“He had great stuff,” he said. “They rolled balls through, but he had some real good stuff. He threw five good innings against a good team. There were a couple of bad pitches, but he had some of the best stuff he’s had in a while. They scored five runs against him and it didn’t seem like they scored five runs against him.”
Turnball lost to the Indians on Aug. 15, giving up three runs on six hits and walking four in 4 2/3 innings. Cleveland has presented Turnbull with his biggest challenges of his young career.
He’s 0-6 with a 5.55 ERA against the Indians in eight career appearances, including seven starts. Ramirez (.462) and Carlos Santana (.471) have been especially difficult for Turnbull to get out.
The Tigers, who have lost several position players to injuries this season, might have to give their top catcher. Austin Romine, the night off. He left Friday’s game in the ninth inning with a wrist injury trying to block a bounced pitch. It was diagnosed as a left wrist contusion.
“He’s going to be fine,” Gardenhire said. “The doctors checked it, X-rayed it and everything’s good.”
–Field Level Media