(Sports Network) - The slumping Detroit Tigers will try to reverse their recent fortunes when the American League Central's last-place team, the Cleveland Indians, invades Comerica Park tonight for the first of three straight meetings between the divisional foes.
Detroit enters this evening's clash having lost seven of its last nine games and began its current seven-game homestand by dropping three of four bouts with AL West-leading Oakland over the Memorial Day weekend. The Tigers have scored four runs or less in each of those seven defeats.
Producing offense shouldn't be much of a problem against a Cleveland club that ranks last in the AL with a 4.89 earned run average and was battered for 37 runs in its just-completed four-game series with the New York Yankees. The Tribe lost three of those contests and 11 of their last 14 overall.
Cleveland did trail 2-1 after 6 1/2 innings of Monday's game, but New York's Alex Rodriguez socked a game-breaking grand slam off reliever Chris Perez during a six-run bottom of the seventh that paved the way for an 11-2 Yankees' victory.
Indians relievers surrendered eight runs in just 1 2/3 innings of work for the game, spoiling a solid performance out of starter Mitch Talbot. The rookie pitched 6 1/3 innings and was charged with three runs on nine hits while not walking a batter.
"I was happy with the overall results," Talbot told the Indians' official site afterward. "I had to battle without my best stuff."
Detroit is coming off a 4-1 setback to the Athletics on Memorial Day, in which Oakland Trevor Cahill combined with three relievers on a seven-hitter. Austin Jackson knocked in the Tigers' only run with a pinch-hit single in the seventh inning.
The A's jumped out to a quick lead by scoring twice off Justin Verlander (5-4) in the top of the first. The Detroit ace regrouped to hold Oakland to just one more run over the remainder of his seven-inning stint, and struck out eight in the tough-luck loss.
"The first inning was a disaster for us, we gave up a couple runs," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. "We had chances to get back in it and we didn't."
Detroit will be seeking to bounce back against a Cleveland team it's dominated as of late. The Tigers have taken four of the first five matchups in this year's season series and are 18-4 in their last 22 overall games against the Indians. They've also won 10 of their last 11 versus the Tribe in the Motor City and swept a three-game set from Cleveland at Comerica Park between April 9-11.
Jeremy Bonderman gets the ball for Detroit in the opener and attempts to continue an impressive stretch of strong starts. The right-hander has yielded two runs or less in each of his last four assignments, posting an outstanding 1.38 ERA over that span, and he's thrown at least six innings in every one of those games.
Bonderman picked up his second victory of 2010 by firing six innings of one- run ball to best Oakland on May 20, then followed up by limiting Seattle to one unearned run and five hits through seven frames this past Wednesday. He wound up taking a no-decision, however, after the Mariners scored four times against the Detroit bullpen in the eighth.
The former first-round pick has rebounded strongly after a pair of injury- shortened seasons, having recorded a 3.78 ERA over eight starts and one relief appearance and giving up only two homers in 47 2/3 innings pitched.
Bonderman is just 8-9 with a 5.68 ERA in 23 career encounters (21 starts) with Cleveland, but did beat the Indians in his season debut back on April 9 by permitting one run and just a single hit over the first five innings.
Jake Westbrook takes the mound for Cleveland tonight and makes his 11th start following his comeback from Tommy John surgery, a procedure which caused him to miss all of last season and nearly the entire 2008 campaign. The veteran righty is 2-3 with a 4.78 ERA so far this year, with both of his wins taking place on the road.
Westbrook has struggled in each of his past two starts, although both came in his home park. After allowing four runs in a five-inning no-decision versus Cincinnati on May 21, the sinker specialist was tagged for five runs in seven frames in a loss to the White Sox last Wednesday.
The 32-year-old garnered a no-decision as well in an April 11 showdown at Comerica Park, a game in which he was reached for three runs in 5 2/3 innings and struck out seven Tigers. For his career, Westbrook is 4-8 with a 5.99 ERA in 21 games (18 starts) against Detroit.