For most of Thursday afternoon, it appeared that the Indians would face the Tigers this weekend with Detroit coming off a punishing four-game sweep at the hands of the Oakland A's at Comerica Park.
The Tigers dropped the first three games of the series and trailed by five runs after five innings in the finale. But they added a pair of runs in the sixth and four more in the ninth, which culminated with Torii Hunter's walk-off, three-run homer to complete the comeback and avert the sweep.
A dramatic, momentum-building victory for their nemesis was the last thing the Indians needed before opening up a three-game set in Detroit on Friday.
"We got Cleveland coming tomorrow," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said following Thursday's win. "We're fortunate we didn't get swept, because [the A's] beat us up good, to their credit. ... I tip my cap to them, but we got that one game. It was an important game, but now we've got to zero in on Cleveland coming in."
There are just 6 1/2 games separating the Tigers and Indians in the American League Central standings, and Detroit has won 13 of 16 meetings in the season series. Most recently, the Tigers swept a four-game series at Progressive Field that ended with the image of Indians utility player Ryan Raburn making a relief appearance in the ninth inning of a blowout.
This weekend represents Cleveland's last chance to redeem itself against the division leader, unless the teams meet in the postseason. The Tribe will tab right-hander Zach McAllister (7-7, 3.51 ERA) in Friday's series opener at Comerica Park, opposite Tigers righty Rick Porcello (10-7, 4.49 ERA).
Many thought the Indians were done following the Tigers' devastating sweep earlier this month. Leyland was not one of them.
"They're not going to go away. They're too good," Leyland said after the sweep. "I can't dictate what anybody else thinks. I know better than that. I'm not a fool. There's a lot of baseball left. We had a very good series against a very good team. I know what I know, and I know that they're not going anywhere."
As the season's final stretch rolls around, the Indians are still in contention. Despite coming off a sweep by the Braves, they remain within four games out of the second AL Wild Card berth.
Indians: Pitchers largely unable to tame Tigers
• Tribe pitchers have been charged with 95 earned runs across 147 innings against Detroit this season, which gives the staff a 5.82 ERA over 16 meetings.
• Mike Aviles hit his eighth home run on Wednesday night, becoming the 11th Indians hitter to go deep at least eight times this season (including Mark Reynolds, who was released earlier this month). That figure gives Cleveland the most hitters with at least eight home runs in baseball and breaks the franchise record, which previously belonged to the 2009 club.
• The Indians reinstated right-hander Brett Myers from the 60-day disabled list on Thursday and released the veteran from his contract. Myers -- who signed a one-year, $7 million deal with Cleveland in January -- was limited to just four appearances this season because of elbow problems. He went 0-3 with an 8.02 ERA.
Tigers: Abdominal discomfort forces Miggy's exit
Miguel Cabrera came out of Thursday's game after the fifth inning when he aggravated his left abdominal wall strain while sliding into second base as he tried to stretch a single into a double. Cabrera took his time in standing up and eventually limped off the field without assistance.
Cabrera said afterward that his abdominal strain was OK and he would be in the lineup to face the Indians. In explaining his desire to play, Cabrera said: "Cleveland, bro."
Cabrera has dealt with an abdominal wall strain for more than a month. He also had a sore left knee and a bruised left shin after fouling two balls off his leg during an at-bat on Aug. 9. He is batting .359 with 43 home runs and 130 RBIs, numbers that put him in a favorable position to win the Triple Crown and Most Valuable Player award for the second straight season.
• The Tigers have outscored Cleveland 103-59 this season.
• The Indians own a 20-18 record since the All-Star break. In the same span, Detroit is 26-14.
Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.