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First-place Tigers look to stay on top against Indians

KC 1/2 game behind Detroit in AL Central

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DETROIT – A swoon following the All-Star break cost the Detroit Tigers their lead in the American League Central, but a strong showing lately has them back in a tenuous yet familiar position. Back on top of the division by one-half game for the first time in over a month, the Tigers look to extend the advantage when they continue their three-game home set on Saturday with the Cleveland Indians. Detroit led by as many as 7 ½ games in mid-July before Kansas City went on a run to move atop the Central.

Read: Top 5 reasons Detroit Tigers will win AL Central Division

The Tigers took two of three from the Royals earlier this week before grabbing sole possession of first place for the first time since Aug. 11 with their fourth win in five games on Friday. Although the Indians had split eight games with Detroit since the Midsummer Classic and were coming off a doubleheader sweep of Minnesota on Thursday, their recent woes against the Tigers continued with Friday's 7-2 setback. Cleveland, which has been outscored 39-17 while dropping five of its last six to the Tigers, fell 4 1/2 games off the pace in the Central and four back of the Royals for the second wild card.

TV: 7:08 p.m. ET, STO (Cleveland), FSN Detroit

PITCHING MATCHUP: Indians RH Danny Salazar (6-7, 4.19 ERA) vs. Tigers LH Kyle Lobstein (1-0, 2.78)

Salazar saw his 21-inning scoreless streak come to a halt in his last turn, surrendering all six of his runs in his final inning of work before leaving with two outs in the fifth during Monday's 12-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. The 24-year-old Dominican, who had been 5-2 with a 2.30 ERA in eight previous outings since joining the rotation in late July, also yielded his second two-homer game since his recall. Salazar scattered eight hits and fanned nine versus the Tigers on Sept. 3 during his first career shutout, improving to 1-1 with a 2.96 ERA against Detroit in the process.

After watching the Tigers drop three of four entering his last outing, Lobstein helped Detroit avoid a three-game sweep and collected his first career victory in Sunday's 6-1 win over San Francisco. The Arizona native, who has posted a 2.12 ERA in three turns since replacing Anibal Sanchez in the rotation, allowed one run on four hits in 5 2/3 frames. Lobstein has recorded more than three strikeouts only once in four all-time outings, doing so on Sept. 2 when he fanned 10 Indians while yielding two runs over 5 1/3 innings in a no-decision.

WALK-OFFS

1. Detroit DH Victor Martinez is batting .391 over his last 30 contests.

2. Cleveland has surrendered 23 homers to Detroit this season, eight more than it has allowed to any other opponent.

3. Tigers LF J.D. Martinez, who joined the team in the offseason after spending his first three seasons with Houston, is one home run shy of doubling his previous career high (11 in 2012).