Facing Carmona, Tigers have a plan

Facing Carmona, Tigers have a plan

CLEVELAND -- Rarely, if ever, has Jim Leyland had this many left-handed hitters to line up against a pitcher since he took over as the Tigers' manager. With Indians sinkerballer Fausto Carmona due up on Saturday night, he plans on using most of them.

"A whole bunch of them -- almost all of them," Leyland said.

On Saturday, Clete Thomas is expected back in right field, where he's been for most of the week and provided an infusion of speed from the No. 3 spot in the Tigers order. Speedy outfielder Josh Anderson will likely be back in left field, and Jeff Larish could be in at first base, giving Miguel Cabrera a day at designated hitter and Magglio Ordonez a rare day off.

The stats back it up. Left-handed hitters are batting .329 against Carmona this year, compared with the .206 average posted by right-handed batters. The trend follows the splits Carmona put up the previous two seasons -- his lefty-righty averages for his career are .291 and .236, respectively.

That's how the Tigers plan to attack the right-hander, whose 6-2 career record against Detroit comprises more than one-fifth of his 29 career Major League wins and an unbeaten streak against the Tigers that dates back to 2007. If it works, it'll be a welcome change from the left-handed dominance the Tigers have seen over their last two games, in which Mark Buehrle and Cliff Lee have combined to hold them to one run over 18 innings.

If that test isn't intriguing enough, the matchup opposite Tigers right-hander Edwin Jackson could be another.

While Jackson has only one victory against the Indians, his 3.08 ERA against Cleveland is his lowest against any opponent over at least four career starts. His two outings at Progressive Field featured 8 2/3 innings of one-run ball with nine strikeouts, though he hasn't pitched here since 2007.

Jackson enters this game on about as much of a roll as a 1-2 starter could at this point in the season. He has entered the seventh inning having allowed one or no runs in three of his last four starts, yet he has only one win to show for it. His average of 4.5 runs of support per nine innings as the pitcher of record ranks near the bottom among American League starters, though it still tops Lee's support.

If Carmona picks up where he left off against the Tigers last season, when he had three wins and a no-decision against Detroit, then Jackson could have more struggles. But this is where the Tigers' balance comes in handy -- not just lefty-righty, but with speed and power. They manufactured a run on the basepaths to defeat Lee on Friday night. They could easily try to do the same against Carmona.

Pitching matchup
DET: RHP Edwin Jackson (1-2, 3.08 ERA)
Jackson's latest defeat came on Monday, when he took a 1-1 game against the Twins into the seventh inning before Minnesota plated five runs to take charge. Jackson has one start and one relief appearance for his career at Progressive Field, where he has held the Indians to one run on eight hits over 8 2/3 innings, striking out nine.

CLE: RHP Fausto Carmona (1-3, 6.11 ERA)
Carmona received a no-decision in his last start, on Monday against the Blue Jays. He allowed four runs on eight hits over 6 2/3 innings. The right-hander walked one, struck out three and tossed 96 pitches in the outing. Carmona has logged at least six innings in each of his last four starts.

The Tigers have yet to lose a weekend game this season, going a combined 8-0 on Saturdays and Sundays. ... Placido Polanco has hit safely in his last seven games, going 9-for-28 with three doubles over that streak. His 13 doubles are one off the AL lead. ... Brandon Inge's fourth-inning single on Friday snapped an 0-for-14 slump.

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Up next
• Sunday: Tigers (Rick Porcello, 2-3, 4.71) at Indians (Anthony Reyes, 1-0, 6.84), 1:05 p.m. ET
• Monday: Off-day
• Tuesday: Tigers (Armando Galarraga, 3-2, 4.08) at Twins (TBD), 8:10 p.m. ET

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.