It is generally too early to make long-term assessments with series in July, but the Indians have an opportunity to take four straight games from the Tigers, and trim a 7 1/2-game American League Central deficit at the start of the series to just 3 1/2 games on Sunday.
With Cleveland's sweep of a doubleheader on Saturday, the space between the Indians and the Tigers diminished to just 4 1/2 games.
Starter Corey Kluber dazzled in Game 1, striking out 10 in 8 2/3 innings of Cleveland's 6-2 win, then Chris Dickerson launched a pair of home runs off Max Scherzer and Carlos Santana broke a 2-2 tie with a three-run double in the ninth to give the Tribe a 5-2 victory in Game 2.
Josh Tomlin and Drew Smyly will duel in Sunday's finale at Comerica Park.
After missing nearly the entire 2013 season with Tommy John surgery, Tomlin has bounced back with a 4.21 ERA in 12 starts for the Indians. His ERA jumped from 3.78 on June 28 after a pair of rough outings.
Tomlin allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings on July 4 in a loss to the Royals. Then, the Yankees posted four runs in seven innings against Tomlin on July 9. Cleveland lost both games.
Tomlin's worst start of the season came against Detroit on June 22. He surrendered eight runs (five earned) in four innings of work in his third straight loss at that point in the season.
Smyly comes off his first win of July, when the Tigers backed him in a 16-4 win against the Royals on July 10. The lefty allowed all four runs, but he worked into the seventh inning with a massive lead and notched his fifth win of the season.
Smyly has now given up four or more runs in his last three starts. He took a no-decision against the Tribe on May 19, allowing three runs in five innings.
Indians: Brantley, Chisenhall compete at plate
With two-plus months to play this season, Cleveland outfielder Michael Brantley (.329 average) and third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall (.327) can be found near the top of the AL batting leaderboard.
Chisenhall said that he is looking forward to seeing how the friendly competition plays out in the second half.
"I may have to put a little wager on it," Chisenhall said. "We'll see who comes out on top at the end of the year. Something friendly. I'll let him take me to dinner or something. ... You don't wish anything bad on him or anything like that. We both want to hit as well as we can. May the better man win."
Both players currently trail Robinson Cano (.340), Adrian Beltre (.335) and Jose Altuve (.335) for the AL batting title.
Tigers: Jackson turning corner
With a pair of big games Saturday, Austin Jackson has begun the second half similarly to the way he ended the first half.
Jackson smacked a pair of hits in both games of Saturday's doubleheader. He's now collected seven multi-hit games in his last eight games. He finished 2-for-4 with a RBI double in Game 1, then drove in both of the Tigers' runs in Game 2 with an RBI walk in the second inning, and a run-scoring triple in the seventh.
Jackson is hitting .424 (14-for-33) in his last eight games.
With two hits Saturday, Cleveland's Nick Swisher continued a strong month of July. Swisher entered the month batting .192, but he's upped that average to .212 behind a .290 July average.
Jackson Alexander is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.