(SportsNetwork.com) - The Detroit Tigers hope to eventually regain what was once theirs when they start a nine-game road trip Friday with the first of three straight games versus the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.
The Tigers lost their grip on the American League Central lead by dropping three of four games to the division's current leaders, the Kansas City Royals.
Detroit salvaged the finale of the four-game set with Thursday's 2-1 win and halted the Royals' 10-game winning streak. Miguel Cabrera's RBI double and a solo home run from J.D. Martinez in the fourth inning was enough to lead the Tigers to victory and pull them within a half-game of the Central lead.
Anibal Sanchez pitched well in the start for the Tigers and allowed only a run in seven innings of work. Joba Chamberlain kept the Royals off the board in the eighth inning and Joe Nathan tacked on his 14th save in the ninth.
"It's a step," Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said of his club, which has gone just 6-11 in June. "It's a baby step, but in the right direction."
Martinez is riding a nine-game hitting streak.
The Tigers will also visit Texas and Houston on this 10-day, nine-game journey and are 18-13 away from Comerica Park. They are hitting .256 on the road this season, compared to a .289 batting average at home.
Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter hopes to return full-time at some point during this series and has been nursing a hamstring injury. He suffered the problem on Monday in the opener with Kansas City.
Rick Porcello takes the mound Friday for the Tigers and is 8-4 with a 4.03 earned run average. He has lost three of his last four decisions, and did not factor in the outcome of Sunday's 4-3 win over Minnesota, charged with three runs in seven innings. Porcello is 5-2 in seven road assignments and 8-3 with a 3.59 ERA in 19 career starts against the Indians.
Porcello was 3-0 in four starts against Cleveland last season.
Cleveland got itself back into the AL Central race and sits 2 1/2 games behind the Royals. It won two of three matchups in a rain-shortened set with the LA Angels and is coming off Thursday's thrilling 5-3 victory in 10 innings.
Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the 10th, the Indians loaded the bases when Carlos Santana walked with one out. Following a David Murphy fly out to left field, Nick Swisher was the hero with a grand slam off Ernesto Frieri.
"One at-bat can turn a whole day around," Swisher said.
Swisher became the third Indians player to win a game with a grand slam in extra innings, joining Don Dillard (July 4, 1962) and Carlos Martinez (Sept. 6, 1992).
Justin Masterson threw seven innings of one-run ball in the no-decision and Kyle Crockett earned the win by getting the final out of the 10th.
The Indians are 13-6 in their last 19 games and have won four straight and seven of last eight series at home.
Corey Kluber gets the call for the Tribe Friday night and is 6-4 with a 3.35 earned run average. Kluber is 0-1 in his last three starts since going 4-0 over his previous five. In Sunday's 3-2 win at Boston, Kluber did not post a decisions after he gave up two runs in 5 1/3 innings.
Kluber is 3-1 in seven home starts, but 1-3 with a 5.24 ERA in eight games (7 starts) lifetime against the Tigers.
The Indians have won four of five games so far with the Tigers this season after losing 15 of the 19 matchups a year ago.