Indians-Tigers Preview

The Cleveland Indians seemed to be in the midst of a potential playoff push at the start of their current trip, but that hope may have evaporated as the offense has cooled.

It probably won't get any easier against Detroit's red-hot six-time All-Star.

The Indians try to avoid their fourth loss in five games Sunday when Justin Verlander looks to lead the Tigers to consecutive home wins for only the second time in two months.

Cleveland batted .317 and averaged 6.8 runs during a six-game winning streak that moved it within four games of the AL's second wild-card spot Aug. 31. However, the club has since hit .203 and scored three or less three times while dropping three of four.

After opening this three-game series at Comerica Park on Friday with an 8-1 win, the Indians managed three hits off Alfredo Simon and two relievers in Saturday's 6-0 defeat.

"Once (Simon) got his breaking ball spinning, there was nothing we could do," manager Terry Francona said.

Cleveland (65-69) fell six games out of a playoff spot following Texas' win and would need to jump three other teams to claim a wild card. The club now faces a tough task as it tries to regroup.

Since going 0-3 with a 6.62 ERA in six starts after returning from a triceps strain in June, Verlander has turned back the clock by allowing one or no runs in six of his past eight. He has a 1.53 ERA over that span while striking out seven or more five times.

"I think he's trying to show that Justin Verlander's still here," manager Brad Ausmus told MLB's official website.

After throwing a one-hitter against the Los Angeles Angels on Aug. 26, Verlander didn't have his best stuff but allowed two earned runs over 6 2-3 innings in Tuesday's 6-5 win at Kansas City.

The 2011 AL MVP has been able to throw his fastball in the upper 90s when needed.

"I still feel like there's more in there, just fine-tune the mechanics a little bit still," he said.

Verlander (3-6, 3.40 ERA) has gone 6-1 with a 2.42 ERA in his last 11 home meetings with Cleveland. He did not get a decision June 13 when he gave up two runs over five innings in a 5-4 defeat.

Carlos Santana hit his sixth career home run versus Verlander in that contest, but he's hitting just .213 in 47 at-bats in the matchup. Yan Gomes is 6 for 18 against him and Michael Brantley is batting .321 in 56 at-bats, though Jason Kipnis is just 3 for 36 with 13 strikeouts.

It was no accident that Brantley and Jerry Sands had two of the three hits in the opener. Brantley is hitting .426 in his last 16 games at Detroit, while Sands is 7 for 17 in the season series.

Cody Anderson (2-3, 4.17) will make his third start since missing 2 1/2 weeks because of an oblique injury. He gave up two runs and three hits over six in Tuesday's 5-3, 10-inning loss at Toronto.

The right-hander, seeking his first win in six starts, faces the Tigers (62-73) for the first time.

Detroit improved to 10-4 in the season series Saturday with only its third win in 15 games. J.D. Martinez hit his 35th homer and Tyler Collins went 2 for 4 with a home run.

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