The Cleveland Indians have dominated the Detroit Tigers in recent years, and they will attempt to continue that domination Tuesday night in the second game of a four-game series between the American League Central rivals.
Cleveland has won eight games in a row over Detroit, a streak that started last season and continued Monday night with the Indians' 2-0 win in the first game of the series. Since the start of the 2016 season, the Indians are 28-10 (.737) vs. the Tigers.
Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin will make his second start of the season Tuesday night. It would be almost impossible for Tomlin not to improve on his first start.
Tomlin's first start of the season, on April 3 vs. the Angels, was a disaster. He gave up more home runs than innings pitched.
In a 13-2 loss to the Angels, Tomlin allowed four home runs in three innings. He gave up eight runs and eight hits overall with one strikeout and one walk, throwing 77 pitches.
On Monday, Indians manager Terry Francona revealed that Tomlin was pitching with a stiff back.
"He hurt it on the third hitter of the game," said Francona, who said Tomlin "backed off" on his between-starts work.
The Indians also gave Tomlin an extra day's rest. His normal day to pitch would have been Monday, but the Indians moved him back to Tuesday.
Tomlin will drag a 24.00 ERA into the start. In two starts against the Tigers last year, he was 1-0 with a 4.35 ERA. In 16 career appearances against Detroit, Tomlin is 7-6 with a 5.19 ERA.
One of Tomlin's biggest challenges will be dealing with longtime Indians nemesis Miguel Cabrera. In 684 career at-bats against the Indians, Cabrera is hitting .333 with 45 home runs and 151 RBIs in 688 at-bats.
Cabrera's career numbers at Progressive Field: a .330 batting average, 24 home runs and 82 RBIs in 367 at-bats. Cabrera's career batting average vs. Tomlin is .370 (10-for-27), with two home runs and seven RBIs.
In pitching eight scoreless innings in the Indians' 2-0 win on Monday night, Corey Kluber held Cabrera hitless in four at-bats. On Tuesday night, the challenge falls to Tomlin.
Francona is more than mindful of the fact that Cabrera has a history of punishing Indians pitching.
"He battled injuries last year, and I know he doesn't get a lot of infield hits, so when he hits .300, he hits .300," Francona said. "He's certainly one of the better hitters of our generation."
The Tigers will go with Matthew Boyd, who will also be making his second start of the season on the mound. His first start was as good as Tomlin's was bad. Although Boyd wast tagged with a 1-0 loss to Kansas City on April 3, he pitched six strong innings, allowing one run and four hits with a strikeout and no walks.
Last year, Boyd made four starts vs. Cleveland and was 1-2 with a 2.28 ERA. In nine career appearances vs. the Indians, Boyd is 1-4 with a 4.99 ERA.