Indians-Tigers: 1st place is on the line in Motown

Tonight kicks off a 3 game series in Detroit between the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers. Only 1/2 game seperates these two AL Central heavyweights for the division lead; with Detroit atop the standings.

It has been quite obvious in my opinion to start the season that these two teams are the toast of the AL Central and possibly the entire American League (save Boston). The Chicago White Sox have became the forgotten man of the division despite only being down 4 1/2 games out of first and the Minnesota Twins have seemingly been written off as well even though they are only some 7 games out. I think the reason for this is because both the Indians and Tigers are so very, very good–and the league members and media alike know this.

These two teams have arrived at success in two different ways. The Tigers are led by their firey manager, Jim Leyland. They have some great young pitching in Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, and Nathan Robertson. They have a bullpen with fireballers like the injured Joel Zumaya, and Fernando Rodney; and guile veterans like Todd Jones, the closer. Their lineup has a bunch of scrappers in it surrounding Magglio Ordonez who is having a fine season. They have been very tough at home and equally tough on the road. Basically they are playing like a team that knows it won the American League Championship last season and they are believing in themselves still due to Leyland and what may be his last run.

The Indians on the other hand have won often and won ugly. They came into the season needing to win badly not only for themselves but for manager Eric Wedge. The Tribe has delivered and gotten off to their best home start ever, where they are a phenomenal 17 and 4. They have been very paltry on the road however, which is the reason they aren’t running away with things in the division, with a record of just 11-13 away from home. Many people around the ballclub are calling this current road trip the Tribe’s biggest initial test. They just played 3 games in Kansas City in which they lost 2. They now head to Detroit with first place on the line and then take an immediate trip monday to face the team with the best record in baseball in the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

The Indians are having this magical season due to a few different things. Veterans like Johnny Peralta and Trot Nixon are having resurgent seasons. Youngsters like Fausto Carmona and Ryan Garko have been pleasant shot-in-the-arm surprises for this team. MVP types like Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner haven’t even began to hit yet but still have fine numbers by most standards. Joe Borowski has been doing his thing as the closer, and C.C. Sabathia might finally be having that Cy Young type year. There is no doubt something very magical brewing about this team. I have said it before and I will say it again; the Indians of 2007 have staying power; they are not going away. The only question that remains is do the Tigers want it just a little worse and will last year’s experience gained and the knowledge of a great manager carry the Tigers forward this season in the AL Central?

I’ll predict this series as being one in which the Tigers win 2 of 3, and maybe one they shouldn’t. Maybe Borowski blows a late lead. Basically I like the Tigers at home more than I do the Indians on the road, but the young and resilient Tribe will be very fired up for this series and play extremely hard.

Leave what you expect to see, predictions, or thoughts in the comments.