Jose Alvarez has shined in the minor leagues as he heads into a big-league debut on some fairly short notice.
He could get plenty of run support as he prepares to face Justin Masterson .
Anibal Sanchez was originally scheduled to start Sunday for Detroit, but he will have his next outing pushed back due to tightness in the back of his right shoulder.
Instead it will be Alvarez who toes the rubber. The left-hander from Venezuela is 5-4 with a 2.42 ERA and an International League-high 76 strikeouts in 12 starts at Triple-A Toledo."He's been about the best pitcher in the International League," manager Jim Leyland said.
Alvarez's record would be better if not for poor run support from the Mud Hens, but that may not be an issue for him Sunday.
That's because Masterson (8-4, 3.57 ERA) is 0-3 with a 9.16 ERA over his last three road starts, surrendering seven runs over 6 1-3 innings Monday in a 7-4 defeat to the Yankees.
The right-hander hasn't faced the Tigers yet this season, going 2-2 with a 4.98 ERA in four 2012 outings against them after being 0-4 with a 5.79 ERA over his first seven career starts versus Detroit.
Hunter is 4 for 9 in this series as Detroit (34-26) has taken the first two games to open a season-high 4 1/2-game lead over second-place Cleveland (30-31) in the AL Central."It's good to be in first place, but we have to stay focused and keep winning games so we can finish in September," Cabrera said.
The Indians are enduring their longest slide of the season to fall below .500 for the first time since they were 12-13 on May 1.
Frustration may be setting in since manager Terry Francona was ejected between the top and bottom of the eighth inning of Saturday's 6-4 defeat after getting between Nick Swisher and plate umpire Andy Fletcher while they were arguing.
Swisher is 0 for 8 in this series and hitless in 24 straight at-bats."There's a lot of us not feeling good right now," Swisher said.
Cabrera is 1 for 6 in this series but the reigning AL MVP still managed to make an impact Saturday when he drew a nine-pitch walk after falling behind 0-2 in the second inning. Prince Fielder followed with a three-run double that put Detroit ahead for good."You saw a great hitter have a great, disciplined at-bat," Leyland said. "Then, Prince came up with a huge, huge hit."
|June 04, 2013||Asdrubal Cabrera||15-Day DL||Right quadriceps strain|
|June 03, 2013||Zach McAllister||15-Day DL||Sprained right middle finger|
|June 03, 2013||Asdrubal Cabrera||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right quad|
|May 30, 2013||Ryan Raburn||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower right leg cramp|
|May 27, 2013||Chris Perez||15-Day DL||Right shoulder soreness|
|May 26, 2013||Chris Perez||Day-to-Day||Left game - Right shoulder discomfort|
|June 08, 2013||Anibal Sanchez||Day-to-Day||Right shoulder stiffness|
|May 12, 2013||Austin Jackson||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|April 26, 2013||Phil Coke||15-Day DL||Left groin strain|
|April 26, 2013||Phil Coke||15-Day DL||Left groin strain|
|April 21, 2013||Octavio Dotel||Day-to-Day||Elbow inflammation|
|April 20, 2013||Octavio Dotel||15-Day DL||Right elbow inflammation|
DETROIT (AP) -- Jose Alvarez stood in front of his temporary locker in the Detroit clubhouse and answered questions with the same relaxed poise he showed on the mound.
"Tried to control the emotions the most I can," the 24-year-old left-hander said. "Trust myself. I was pretty happy, this outing in the big leagues."
Alvarez pitched six impressive innings in his major league debut, making the most of a one-day audition with the Tigers in Sunday's 4-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians . He was called up to make this start when Anibal Sanchez 's shoulder acted up. Then after the game, Alvarez was sent back to the minors - but not before he impressed his manager, his teammates and a sellout crowd of 41,262.
"You certainly had to like his demeanor and his mound presence. I thought it was terrific," manager Jim Leyland said. "He didn't appear to be overwhelmed by anything. We kind of noticed that in spring training - this kid was pretty calm."
Don Kelly hit a tiebreaking three-run homer in the sixth for the first-place Tigers, who completed a three-game sweep of Cleveland and lead the AL Central by 5 1/2 games over the Indians. Alvarez (1-0) held Cleveland hitless until Ryan Raburn 's fifth-inning homer. He allowed three hits and a walk and struck out seven.
Drew Smyly pitched two innings of relief. Joaquin Benoit finished for his third save.
Justin Masterson (8-5) allowed four runs in seven innings. He gave up a walk to Miguel Cabrera and a single to Prince Fielder to start the sixth. One out later, Kelly lifted a drive over the wall in right field.
Alvarez had thrown his last pitch by that point, but Kelly's hit made him the pitcher of record.
"I can't believe it," Alvarez said. "My first outing and this guy gives me a good lead right after they take me out of the game."
The Tigers have built their division lead behind terrific starting pitching. Sanchez has been perhaps their best pitcher so far, but Detroit skipped the right-hander's start Sunday because of tightness in the back of his throwing shoulder.
Enter Alvarez, whose contract was purchased from Triple-A Toledo before the game. He baffled the Indians during the early innings, allowing only a leadoff walk to Mark Reynolds in the second before Raburn - the former Tiger - tied the game at 1 with his seventh homer of the season.
"He hit his spots good - worked in and out," Raburn said. "We just couldn't get anything going."
The left-handed hitting Kelly brought a .190 average into the game, but Leyland started him against Masterson, who is tough on righties.
The move paid off with Kelly's third homer of the year, which gave the Tigers a 4-1 lead.
"It was a slider down and in, and I was able to put a good swing on it," Kelly said. "I didn't know right away if I got it or not."
Detroit's bullpen was a bit taxed - and a man short because the Tigers had to add an extra starter for this game. They were able to wrap up this win with Smyly and Benoit while resting closer Jose Valverde .
Detroit's Alex Avila opened the scoring with a sacrifice fly in the second.
Masterson allowed six hits. He walked three and struck out four.
NOTES: Indians closer Chris Perez (sore right shoulder) is expected to throw off a mound Tuesday. Perez and his wife were charged in a complaint filed Friday with misdemeanor drug possession involving just over one-third of a pound of marijuana, police in Ohio said. Their attorney said they would plead not guilty. ... It began raining in the ninth inning, sending many fans back toward the concourse level while Benoit finished the game. ... Cleveland's Nick Swisher singled in the sixth to snap an 0-for-26 slide. ... Alvarez was optioned back to Toledo after the game. .. Detroit opens a three-game series at Kansas City on Monday night. Doug Fister (5-3) takes the mound for the Tigers against Jeremy Guthrie (6-3). Cleveland starts a three-game set at Texas. Scott Kazmir (3-3) will start Monday for the Indians.