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Indians-Tigers Preview

Much has been made about the struggles of Justin Verlander, who earned the win despite another lackluster performance earlier in the week.

He had an especially rough time against the Cleveland Indians in his previous start.

Verlander and the Detroit Tigers go for a three-game sweep against the visiting Indians as these AL Central rivals close their season series Sunday.

The Tigers (82-66) remain one-half game ahead of Kansas City for the division lead after rallying to win 5-4 on Saturday. Alex Avila delivered a go-ahead two-run homer with two outs the eighth inning, and Detroit held on for its fifth victory in six games.

"I don't care about the Royals, really," Torii Hunter told MLB's official website. "I only care about what the Tigers are doing right now. Sometimes you keep looking back and you trip over a rock."

The Tigers have taken six of seven from the Indians (76-71), who are running out of time to make a run at the wild card after falling five games behind the Royals with 15 to play. Michael Brantley went 2 for 4 with a two-run homer and Mike Aviles added a two-run double.

"Obviously, a loss like that is tough, but losing one game isn't going to make the difference," reliever Bryan Shaw said after serving up the game-winning homer. "Right now, we've got to battle back, come back and try to win tomorrow, and hopefully the rest of the teams that are ahead of us and everything else, everything goes our way and we have an opportunity."

Cleveland will try to regroup against Verlander (13-12, 4.82 ERA), who enters with a 1.43 WHIP - his highest mark over nine full seasons. He's on pace to finish with fewer than 200 strikeouts for the first time since 2008, recording just 6.96 per nine innings.

Verlander has allowed at least four runs in four of his last five starts, going 3-2 despite a 6.26 ERA. He gave up four runs and six hits over seven innings in Monday's 9-5 win over Kansas City.

The right-hander was tagged for seven runs over 6 2-3 innings in last Wednesday's 7-0 loss at Cleveland, dropping to 0-2 with a 5.95 ERA over a three-start stretch in the series. While Michael Bourn is a career .355 hitter against Verlander, Jason Kipnis is 3 for 31 in their matchups. Carlos Santana is 9 for 43, but five of those hits have left the yard for the most homers off Verlander by any active player.

The Indians turn to Trevor Bauer (5-8, 4.12), who allowed all four runs and struck out eight over a career high-tying eight innings in Tuesday's 4-3 loss to Minnesota. The right-hander also yielded four runs in last Thursday's 11-4, 11-inning loss to the Tigers, giving up six hits and four walks over 5 2-3 innings.

Bauer has faced Detroit four times this year, going 2-0 despite a 4.88 ERA. Avila is one of five Tiger hitters to take him deep, going 4 for 7 in their matchups. Ian Kinsler is 5 for 13.

Verlander is 13-0 with a 3.68 ERA when receiving at least four runs of support compared to 0-12 with a 5.97 ERA when he doesn't.

Brantley is batting .421 with five homers, 11 doubles and 20 RBIs over a 27-game stretch against the Tigers dating to last July.

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