The Detroit Tigers got off to a poor start on a road trip against AL Central rivals. A healthy lineup and a three-game series at Progressive Field could turn it around.
The Tigers look to avoid a season-high fourth straight defeat Friday night when they face the slumping Cleveland Indians.
Coming off a 5-1 homestand, Detroit (16-13) dropped three straight in Minnesota in a series that ended with Wednesday's 5-4 loss.
Looking to avoid their first four-game slide since an 0-5 stretch from Sept. 8-12, the Tigers are hoping to have Johnny Damon back in the lineup after he left Wednesday's loss with a spasm in his right calf muscle.
"It's better if I miss six innings now,' said Damon, who is 1 for 14 in the last four games. "It's tight, but it's going to be all right.'
Tigers catcher Gerald Laird could be behind the plate Friday after coming out of Tuesday's 4-3 loss with a shin bruise. Rookie catcher Alex Avila, though, should also see plenty of action in this series. He had two homers Wednesday and is hitting .556 in the last four games.
"The way he's starting to swing now, basically what that means is it earns you more playing time," manager Jim Leyland told MLB.com.
Either Laird or Avila will catch for Jeremy Bonderman (1-1, 5.74 ERA), who is looking for his first win since his season debut April 10 against Cleveland. In his last outing, the 27-year-old right-hander gave up two runs and season-high 10 hits over six innings in Saturday's 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
"He's adjusting to the art of pitching more than he's ever had to - and doing a pretty good job," Leyland said.
Bonderman retired the first 11 he faced and allowed one run and one hit over five innings in last month's win against Cleveland. He is 4-1 with a 3.71 ERA in his last seven outings versus the Indians.
He'll look to improve that mark against a Cleveland team that has lost four straight and eight of 10. The Indians (10-17) were one out from snapping their skid Wednesday against Toronto, but closer Chris Perez gave up a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth after a grounder went through Luis Valbuena's legs.
"You feel bad for (Valbuena), but we win as a team and we lose as a team,' manager Manny Acta said.
Cleveland has averaged 3.3 runs per game while dropping five straight series. That's still better than the Indians have managed for left-hander David Huff (1-4, 4.60), who has one of the lowest run support averages in the AL at 2.59.
Huff starts Friday after the Indians pushed Justin Masterson to Saturday to avoid throwing three consecutive right-handed sinkerballers.
Since his first career complete game April 15 against Texas, Huff has lost three straight starts. Opponents are batting .362 with six home runs against him during this stretch. He gave up three homers in Sunday's 8-3 loss to Minnesota.
In his first appearance against Detroit, Huff gave up four runs and six hits in a 5-2 loss April 9.
He'll face a Tigers team that is among the best in the AL with a .280 batting average. Detroit, though, is hitting .242 against left-handers.
Asdrubal Cabrera is expected to be in Friday's lineup after missing the last two games with a quadriceps strain. He's batting .412 (7 for 17) on the Indians' homestand.
Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner, who hit his first homer in 11 games Wednesday, is 10 for 34 with three home runs, 11 walks and 14 strikeouts lifetime versus Bonderman.
Detroit won seven of nine at Progressive Field last season.
The Associated Press News Service
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