The Detroit Tigers haven’t had a season-long winning record against the Cleveland Indians since 2015.
In the last four years, they’ve lost 58 of 75 games against the American League Central foe, and they’re currently drowning in a 17-game losing streak that dates to April 11, 2019. It’s the longest skid the Tigers have had against one opponent — the Twins and A’s each recorded 16-game wins streaks.
With this season’s 60-game schedule, the Tigers get 10 opportunities to rewrite their misfortunes, beginning with a weekend series starting Friday at Comerica Park.
“We’re trying to turn the page and move forward,” manager Ron Gardenhire said Wednesday. “And Cleveland’s a good baseball team. We were in a lot of games with them last year. We just didn’t get it done. We’re starting new.”
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Last year, Detroit finished 47-114 — worst in baseball. Of those 114 losses, 18 came against Cleveland. They dropped 14 more against the Minnesota Twins, 12 to the Chicago White Sox and nine to the Kansas City Royals.
“I don’t really worry about what happened last year,” Gardenhire said. “We got beat by a lot of people last year.”
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On April 9, the 11th game of the 2019 season, the Tigers took their first loss to the Indians. Following a 4-1 victory the next day, thanks to now-struggling left-hander Matthew Boyd, they were unable to return to the win column, finishing 1-18.
In those 19 games, the Tigers scored 38 times.
Cleveland scored a whopping 116 times.
“Oh, wow. I didn’t know it was 17 straight,” center fielder JaCoby Jones said Tuesday — he hit .240 with one homer in seven games against the Indians last year. “Wow. That’s crazy. But I mean, whatever. It is what it is.”
The Tigers slashed .200/.239/.331 as a team in the 2019 season series with 16 home runs, 38 RBIs and 187 strikeouts compared to 32 walks.
But they are 9-7 overall this year and continue to prove they are much improved with the additions of catcher Austin Romine and second baseman Jonathan Schoop, to go with dominant right-handed starter Spencer Turnbull.
Even Jones and third baseman Jeimer Candelario (now at first base because of C.J. Cron’s knee injury) are producing at a higher rate on offense and defense. And there’s still two-time AL Most Valuable Player Miguel Cabrera to worry about.
The Indians, meanwhile, trail by a half-game with a 10-9 record. Earlier this week, starting pitchers Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac were sent home for violating MLB’s COVID-19 protocols Saturday night after a 7-1 win against the White Sox. They were forced into quarantine and will not face the Tigers.
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“It’s a new year, new team, new everything,” Jones said. “So we’re going to go out there and do what we do, and we’ll see what happens. I hope we kick their butts.”
The pitching staff had a 5.53 ERA and 1.623 WHIP in last year’s 162⅔ innings versus Cleveland, giving up 197 hits, 116 runs (100 earned), 29 home runs and 67 walks with 143 strikeouts.
Like Jones, catcher Grayson Greiner had no idea just how bad his team has been against the division rival.
“It doesn’t really matter going forward,” Greiner said. “We haven’t played them yet this year. We’ve got a whole new team; they’ve got a whole new team. We’re going to go out there each and every day trying to win and position ourselves to have a good season.
“They’re a good team, I think we’re a good team. We’re going to strap up our cleats and try to win some ballgames.”
Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.