Cleveland Rocks

The defending AL champion Detroit Tigers came to Cleveland with plenty of momentum as they sought to chase down the first-place Indians. They're on the verge of leaving town with their playoff hopes virtually erased.

The surging Indians will try to complete a three-game sweep of the second-place Tigers on Wednesday when they send ace C.C. Sabathia to the mound.

Detroit (83-69) entered the series having won 10 of 12 to pull within 4 1/2 games of Cleveland in the AL Central. The Tigers then held a 5-2 lead in the eighth inning of Monday's opener.

Since that point, the Indians have used a barrage of homers to nearly end the division race. Jhonny Peralta's two-run homer in the eighth inning Monday - his second of the game - tied the score and Casey Blake's solo shot in the 11th gave his club a 6-5 victory.

Cleveland (89-62) homered four more times in Tuesday's 7-4 win. Travis Hafner hit a game-tying, three-run homer in the third inning and Victor Martinez snapped a tie by leading off the sixth with his team-high 24th home run of the season.

The Indians have won 19 of 24 games to reduce their magic number to clinch the division to five.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Cleveland -175 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 9 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 71% of bets for this game have been placed on Cleveland -175 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

"When you are chasing thoroughbreds, there is very little room for error," Tigers closer Todd Jones said. "Anybody can do the math. They have really turned the screws. You can tell that they feel they are close and they want it."

While Cleveland moved within one-half game of Boston for the best record in baseball, Detroit has fallen 4 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees for the AL wild card.

Sabathia (17-7, 3.21 ERA) can deliver another blow to the Tigers' hopes. He's already matched his career-high win total from his rookie season of 2001, and is 3-0 with a 2.10 ERA in his last four outings.

His three-start winning streak, however, came to an end Friday against Kansas City when he failed to get a decision in a 5-4 win. Sabathia allowed four runs and seven hits over seven innings and struck out a career-high 13.

He had gone 10 consecutive starts without allowing more than two earned runs, the longest such stretch for an Indians pitcher since Gaylord Perry in 1974. Perry is also the only Indians' pitcher ever to win the Cy Young Award, doing so in 1972.

"I could care less about any individual honors," Sabathia said. "I just want to win the division and pitch in the playoffs again. That's it. That's all I want."

The left-hander is 2-1 with a 6.04 ERA in four starts against Detroit this year.

Detroit's Marcus Thames is 6-for-11 against Sabathia this season, while Gary Sheffield is 5-for-11.

The Tigers have 12 hits in each of the first two games in this series, but they have just one homer in comparison to the Indians' seven. Cleveland has a total of only 15 hits.

Nate Robertson (8-11, 4.93) will face the Indians for the fourth time this year, but the first time at Jacobs Field. He's 0-1 with a 4.12 ERA at Cleveland in three career starts, and 0-1 with a 3.72 ERA in his first three outings against the Indians in 2007.

The southpaw won Friday at Minnesota by allowing two runs over seven innings in a 4-2 victory. He had been 0-2 with a 5.16 ERA in his previous five outings.

Robertson has been effective against Hafner in his career, limiting the Cleveland slugger to four hits in 27 at-bats with nine strikeouts.

by: Michael Cash - thespread.com – Email Us

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