Originally written on Burning River Baseball  |  Last updated 11/15/14

The Indians remain in first place despite losing the last series to the Miami Marlins. With a three game lead over the Tigers, even with a sweep the Tribe will be tied for first as long as Chicago doesn't sweep the Twins. Of course the Indians will be looking to sweep as well over Tigers as that would put them up 6 games late in May. After the Detroit series the Indians will play the White Sox themselves, so this week will go a long way to determine the top of the Central Division.

The Tigers are currently struggling offensively, although you couldn't tell so from their record. Brennan Boesch, Alex Avila and Ryan Rayburn are all starters who are playing far below where the Tigers would like them to be. Last season Boesch and Avila had breakout years, especially Avila as he stole the starting catcher role from Victor Martinez and pushed him into being their designated hitter. Avila went to the All-Star game that year, but is far from All-Star quality right now as he is batting .221/.299/.381. Multi-millionaires Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are carrying this team offensively now with a lot of help from young outfielders, Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks. Jackson has been especially productive this season as he looks to make the Tigers forget all about Curtis Granderson (they already have). Jackson has missed the last four games, but should be available for the start of the series in Cleveland.

May 22nd, 7:05 EST: Rick Porcello, RHP, 3-3, 5.12 ERA vs Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, 4-3, 5.09 ERA

When you're doing a real statistical analysis, you generally throw out the top and bottom outliers as they aren't truly reresentitive of the whole. Doing this for Rick Porcello makes sense as the 8 runs he allowed in one inning against Texas should not have any bearing when evaluating his talent. If you take out that game and the next (his best game of the season against Chicago) he then has a 4.14 ERA which is closer to his career average of 4.59. Against the Indians he is even better as he has gone 5-1 in 12 starts with a 3.86 ERA.

Two quality starts in his last two games give Ubaldo Jimenez four total for 2012. Of course the Indians didn't trade their best two minor league pitching prospects for quality starts. They expected dominance, but you have to work one step at a time. Not surprisingly, 3 of Ubaldo's 4 wins have come in games where he had a quality start and he will look to add another on Tuesday against the Tigers.

May 23rd, 7:05 EST: Doug Fister, RHP, 0-2, 1.59 ERA vs Zach McAllister, RHP, 1-1, 4.34 ERA

Fister's ERA numbers are slightly overrated as he has only pitched in 22 innings this season. Fister pitched on April 7th, then spent entire month on the disabled list. Since his return he has started three times and pitched through the 6th each time. He has only given up 4 total runs, but the three games were against Oakland, Seattle and Minnesota, two of the three worst teams in the AL and the Oakland A's.

Zach McAllister seems to be finding his way back to normalcy as he allowed a season low 3 hits against the Seattle Mariners in an Indians win his last time out. Although he walked 5, control hadn't been an issue for him until that point. He currently has a strike out to walk ratio of 19 to 6 so he should have little trouble with the free swinging Tigers as far as that goes. He has also allowed only a single home run so far this season, a trend he will need to continue against the powerful Tigers if he expects to compete.

May 24th, 12:05 EST: Justin Verlander, 5-1, 2.14 ERA vs Justin Masterson, RHP, 1-3, 5.04 ERA

Verlander almost threw a no-hitter during his last start and is a threat to do so every time out on the mound. Justin Masterson will have to keep improving on his recent success to stay toe-to-toe with Justin Verlander in the battle of the Central Division Justins. This game was originally not going to be televisied, but due to the interesting match-up, what could very well be the top two teams in the Central fighting for first with their aces on the mound, STO decided to pick it up. Turn it on and enjoy some early ace baseball. Or even better, go to the game so Chris Perez doesn't get mad at you.


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