CLEVELAND -- At this point, whenever the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers meet, there's only one overriding topic: The Streak. Wednesday afternoon at Progressive Field, the two teams will play the final game of their three-game series, and it will be the Tigers' last chance until September to halt their losing streak to Cleveland, which currently stands at 11 games.
The Indians are 11-0 against the Tigers this season. "They've outplayed us," said Detroit manager Brad Ausmus. "We haven't played that bad, but they've played better than us, pitched better than us and hit better than us."
In winning all 11 games between the two teams, the Indians have outscored the Tigers 77-24. So not only has Cleveland won every game, many of them have been blowouts. Among Cleveland's 11 wins have been victories by scores such as 10-1, 9-4, 6-0, 9-3, and 12-1.
Nevertheless, Ausmus says his players aren't dwelling on their inability to beat Cleveland this year.
"You go into very game thinking anyone can win. It's just that we've lost the last 11 in a row," he said. "But when we take the field tomorrow none of our guys will be thinking about the streak."
Indians manager Terry Francona says the streak is a part of a bigger picture, which is what concerns him most.
"I don't spend a lot of time thinking about (the streak)," Francona said. "You just worry about playing the next game and trying to win."
Making the streak even better for Cleveland and more miserable for Detroit is that the two teams are in the Central Division. So each outcome has added importance in the division race. The first-place Indians currently lead the second-place Tigers by 7 1/2 games.
In Wednesday's matchup, the Tigers will send impressive rookie Michael Fulmer (8-2, 2.17) to the mound. Fulmer may give the Tigers their best chance yet at halting the streak. The 23-year-old right-hander has allowed one or no runs in each of his last eight starts, which is the longest such streak by a Tigers starter since at least 1913. Over his last eight starts, Fulmer is 6-1 with a 0.53 ERA. Since May 21, Fulmer leads all major league pitchers with a 0.53 ERA and .133 opponent's batting average.
Cleveland will start right-hander Josh Tomlin, who can throw some impressive statistics onto the table as well. Tomlin is 9-1 with a 3.21 ERA. He leads the American League with an average of 0.9 walks per nine innings. Tomlin also leads the AL with 6.40 strikeouts per walk.
Fulmer has only lost two of his 13 starts, but one of those losses was to the Indians. On May 5 at Progressive Field, the Indians beat Fulmer 9-4. In that game, Fulmer pitched five innings and gave up five runs and 10 hits.
Nine of Tomlin's 15 starts this season have been against AL Central teams. In those games, he is 7-0 with a 3.17 ERA. This will be Tomlin's fourth start against the Tigers this season. In his first three, he was 3-0 with a 2.61 ERA.